Actually, it's the outcome of a handful of 2008 races that political liberals and conservatives are now working to undo.
Several sources confirmed that Wisconsin Democrats and labor leaders are plotting recall elections for several Republican senators as soon as lawmakers push through Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan to curb collective bargaining rights and require public employees to chip in part of their salary toward their health care and pension costs.
"Those are options people are looking at," said Marty Beil, director of the largest state employees union.
Even more emphatic was Rich Abelson, executive director of AFSCME Council 48, which represents county and city employees in the Milwaukee area.
"This is not a Plan B," Abelson said Friday night. "This is going forward irrespective of how the vote turns out. Oh, yeah, we are going to make a full-court press."
On the other hand, the Citizens for Responsible Government Network has announced that it is advising groups interested in ousting two Senate Democrats who joined their colleagues in fleeing Wisconsin to prevent a vote on Walker's proposed budget repair plan.
"There's a good deal of will to replace these guys," said Chris Kliesmet, head of the conservative political group. "These guys are on the lam."
The wheels already appear to be set in motion for a recall vote in one Milwaukee-area district.
Last week, Sen. Alberta Darling, a River Hills Republican, helped shepherd Walker's budget repair bill through the Joint Finance Committee, of which she is a co-chairman. The vote stalled in the state Senate when the 14 Democrats fled the state, preventing the upper house from being able to get a quorum to meet and vote on the bill that set off massive protests at the Capitol.
Darling defeated then-Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, a Milwaukee Democrat, by a narrow margin in 2008.
Wasserman said Friday that he has been contacted by a handful of Democrats and union officials asking if he would run against Darling if she faces a recall election.
Wasserman, an OB/GYN, made it clear that he is itching to take on the veteran lawmaker. He said Darling, who has run as a moderate Republican, is already toeing Walker's "hard-core conservative" party line.
"I am interested," said Wasserman, who seriously considered running for Milwaukee County executive after Walker was elected governor in November. "She'll have a fight on her hands."
Darling said last week in an interview that she is well aware of the recall talk.
But given the state's looming $3.6 billion budget deficit, she said she is committed to supporting the first-term Republican governor's austerity measures. One of the wealthier members of the Legislature, she said she has no plans to step up her fundraising activity.
Still, Darling did acknowledge that everyone has been caught by surprise by the protests.
"This has much more intensity" than previous ones, said Darling, who has served as a lawmaker for more than 20 years. "Clearly, in terms of numbers, this is the biggest demonstration against a piece of legislation in the Capitol that I have ever seen."
In all, Democratic insiders and labor leaders have identified six Senate Republicans who may be the subject of recall elections. But the focus, so far, seems to be on Darling and Sens. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, both of whom are from districts that are fairly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
Kapanke and Hopper left the Capitol early Friday afternoon and could not be reached for comment
Kliesmet, the CRG leader, said his group would be willing to help any lawmakers targeted for recalls because they support Walker's proposal. But the group has not yet been asked.
His group is focusing its efforts on recalling two Democrats - Sen. Jim Holperin of Eagle River and Bob Wirch of Kenosha. Holperin survived a recall effort in 1990.
For Democrats and labor officials, the clock is ticking.
Insiders say they want to make sure the recall elections are held before Republicans, who control the Assembly and Senate, redraw the boundaries for legislative districts in light of the 2010 census numbers, which are being released this month. In addition, Democrats are desperate to stop Walker from pushing through his agenda, something they could do only if they flip three Senate districts currently held by Republicans.
Walker told the Journal Sentinel he is not concerned about his proposals possibly leading to the ouster of some Republicans.
"In the end, doing the right thing is not only the right thing to do," the governor said in a Friday interview. "I think people respect doing the right thing."
State law prohibits anyone from recalling elected officials until they have held office for at least a year. That means, despite all the talk among Madison protesters, Walker cannot be the subject of a recall election for nearly another year. The same holds true for all the members of the state Assembly and half of the state senators.
One prominent Democrat told No Quarter that national labor leaders are deeply involved in planning the recall elections against Senate Republicans - even though national and local labor officials disputed this.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the presidents of dozens of national unions had pledged more than $25 million to counter efforts to scale back bargaining rights in Wisconsin and other states. In addition, Politicosaid last week that the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America arm - the part of President Barack Obama's presidential campaign - is helping out with the Wisconsin protests.
That has Walker supporters suggesting that the rallies and recall efforts are actually intended to serve as early organizational efforts for Obama's re-election bid next year in a crucial swing state.
"I wish I was that smart," said state AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt.
Recall elections are never gimmes, despite how upset voters may be about an issue.
The last Wisconsin lawmaker to be recalled from office was then-Sen. Gary George, who was ousted in 2003 just days before he was hit with federal corruption charges. He eventually served time behind bars after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy for accepting about $270,000 in kickbacks of legal fees paid by an inner-city social service agency. Before that, then-Sen. George Petak, a Racine Republican, was bumped from office after switching his vote and supporting a regional tax to pay for the construction of Miller Park.
In a recall election, organizers have 60 days to collect signatures from enough voters to equal at least 25% of the vote cast in the 2010 governor's race in that district. If more than two candidates compete in the recall, a primary election is held about six weeks after the recall petition is certified. The top two contenders face off in a general election a month later if no one gets more than half of the vote.
"The whole process takes about 4½ months from beginning to end," said Kliesmet, whose group has assisted several communities in recall votes since 2002. "Getting signatures is easy. Winning elections is difficult."
Not surprisingly, leaders on both sides of the recall talk have begun disparaging each other's efforts.
Abelson, the Milwaukee labor leader, said CRG is made up of little more than Kliesmet and two of his friends. The group assisted voters who tried unsuccessfully to recall former Gov.Jim Doyle and ex-Sen. Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa.
"I know they've got stationery, and they like to send things out," Abelson said. "But that rings ridiculous in the most absurd way."
But the leaders of the citizens group said voters assisted by CRG successfully recalled eight local officials last year, while Dems failed to take down Walker when he was still leading county government.
"I'll put my track record up against his any day," Kliesmet said.
Better still, the two sides will get to go head to head in the coming months if they get what they wish.
Daniel Bice can be contacted by phone at (414) 224-2135 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.