Democrats Milk Wisconsin Union Issue to Build Base

wisconsin-recall-repub-8Democrats are still trolling for new supporters through “Wisconsin union” related search ads, despite the fact that a bill curbing collective bargaining rights of some Wisconsin public workers passed last week. Targeting ads to current events related searches is nothing new, but groups – particularly Democratic organizations – seem to be getting play out of the Wisconsin union issue, even as news coverage steers away from the state toward Japan.

“Join the DSCC Now and Take a Stand Against Extreme Republicans!” declares a Google search ad from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee titled, “Outrage in Wisconsin.” Another DSCC ad labeled “WI Workers Under Attack” demands, “Tell the GOP: Stop Hurting Working Men & Women. Add Your Voice Now!” The ads link to a petition to “Let Democrats in Wisconsin know that we stand with them against the extreme antics.”

Backing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been a popular rallying cry for fellow Republicans in recent weeks, but the issue has taken hold as a way for Democrats to build a base – more specifically a database – of support.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is driving supporters to its “Recall the Republican 8” petition through Google search ads and display ads seen on sites such as Democratic Underground. But the online petition calling for signers to “Stand against [Wisconsin Governor] Scott Walker and show your support to recall the Republican 8” is not an official petition associated with the actual recall of state Republican lawmakers. The official recall forms can only be signed in-person by registered voters living in the district of one of the “Republican 8.”

The Recall the Republican 8 campaign is aimed at an actual recall, but the online ads serve a dual purpose. As the 2012 election season approaches, the idea behind ads fueling signups – whether from the left or right – are about fundraising and building a supporter list for future fundraising and organizing.

“Most people right now are just trying to raise money off of hot issues and gather fresh e-mail addresses,” said Eric Frenchman, chief Internet strategist for CDI, a consulting firm that works with Republican campaigns.

Democratic groups, unions, and other left-leaning organizations have latched onto the Wisconsin issue; they know it resonates across the country as battles over budget bills loom elsewhere that could affect union workers. Ads from the Ohio House Democratic Caucus Fund are targeting Wisconsin union related searches, for instance. The ads link to a page asking supporters to donate $5 to fight an Ohio Senate bill the group argues “is a Republican assault on Ohio’s middle class.”

In a rare campaign against a Democrat, MoveOn.org is asking supporters to sign a petition against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget that would end the so-called millionaire’s tax. The petition page alludes to the Wisconsin issue, pleading, “Wisconsin showed that the people are not going to let corporations and their allies on the right trample the American Dream without a fight. Now we have to send that same message in New York.”

Amara Mastronardi contributed to reporting this story.

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