The Wall Street Journal had a big scoop on Monday, reporting that Wisconsin's AWOL Democrats would be returning to allow a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wis.) contentious anti-union bill. The Democrats, apparently as surprised as everyone else, quickly distanced themselves from the Journal story. Walker and the Democrats then spent the rest of the day trying to blame each other for failing to negotiate an end to the nearly month-long standoff. The confusion left everyone wondering what happens next. Here, four theories:
1. The stalemate continues for months
Walker's aggressive press conference on Monday was apparently intended to force the Democrats to "cave and return to Wisconsin," says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. Instead, he stiffened their resolve to hold out. And by suggesting that two Democratic state senators were trying to cut a side deal with him, Walker "antagonized" the last two Democrats willing to work with him. Good, says Stephen Bainbridge at ProfessorBainbridge.com. The Republicans must stand firm, "even if takes all summer" to end this standoff.
2. At least one Democrat caves
All this "confusion" over the Democrats' plans can mean only one thing, says Moe Lane at RedState. The 14 Democrats "lost whatever unit cohesion that they might have had in the first place." They are 14 individuals, after all, and some of them must be "getting tired, sore, and fuming" about becoming "surrogate whipping boys" in the national debate on unions. Someone's resolve will break, and remember, "it only takes one AWOL senator to end this nonsense."
3. "Nervous Republicans" cut a deal
It also only takes a few moderate Republicans to "torpedo Walker's budget," says E.D. Kain at Forbes, and it seems likely that they're already working behind the scenes on a deal with Democrats. Walker will never compromise, but eight Republicans are facing summer recall elections, and losing their seats is "a very real danger for some of them." The governor is becoming toxic, so there's strong incentive for state Republicans to keep their distance.
4. The Democrats will give in... but win anyway
The fleeing Democrats have already made Walker's "effort to quietly gut collective bargaining... a huge failure," says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post. But they can't stay away forever. Nor should they. The Democrats' move is in many ways like the "traditional filibuster" of lore: A "physically exhausting and politically dangerous stand" against a bill they hate, that shuts down business in "a desperate attempt to win the public over to their side." Now it's up to Wisconsin voters to support Dems.