If Democrats are searching for an outburst of citizen outrage to help them regain the House and keep the presidency next year, it will have to come from somewhere other than Wisconsin, where it ought to have started.
Wisconsin is the home of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, whose cruel cuts proposed in April for Medicare and Medicaid should have provided desperately needed traction for the party of Obama.
It is where Republicans in the Wisconsin statehouse undercut bargaining rights for public employees last winter. So furious liberals forced recall elections last week in six state Senate seats held by Republicans.
Democrats won only two -- one short of reclaiming the state Senate majority. The turnouts were huge. Money and people from all over the country flooded in -- millions in union dollars; cash from the right that can't yet be traced.
Spend all the money in creation and poll until your fingers run red, but the only reliable indicators are elections.
Today it seems that the angst that sent Democratic Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul to represent a rural GOP district in Congress last May is not contagious. In fact, it may have been swept under.
Now the issues grabbing headlines are another trillion-dollar deficit, threatened pension funds, stagnant employment, bearish consumers, death in Afghanistan and President Obama's abject cave-in on the debt ceiling law.
Late this week -- aside from the nation's and our personal finances, the story looks like the Obama family vacation on posh Martha's Vineyard, Mass. With 20 percent of us jobless or underemployed, the Obamas will be paying an estimated $50,000 a week in rent, while the taxpayers will foot another $500,000 for staff, travel and other costs of this lavish Elizabethan progress.
Camp David, the White House or even back home in Illinois isn't good enough in a deep recession.
Last week in a scripted appearance in Michigan, Obama slammed both parties in Congress for inaction. He amazingly added, "the last thing we need is Congress back" in Washington. This is total Chicago cool: Look sharp, reflect blame even on your own party, deflect, and say simple things.
While it works for the moment, RealClearPolitics now casts Obama as a negative in every reliable poll. And more Democrats are bored with the performance, or lack of it. Add to the criticisms from Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, Jesse Jackson and Harry Belafonte, comments from Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland that their president has trouble with his spine.
As Obama looks for it, Democratic Reps. Hochul and Brian Higgins and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, all of whom voted with Obama to turn over spending decisions to a gang of 12, are home playing small ball. Hochul opened a district office, Higgins fought for the Lackawanna Post Office, and Schumer railed against fake Chinese ID cards. They get paid $3,346 weekly whether they're here or not.
They're all professionals and their "strategery," like Obama's, is re-election, although they and other Democrats will get little help from him, in rhetoric or policy.
OK. It's folly to place too much weight on any one election, like Wisconsin's. But the voter energy, the liberal tailwind, that Obama caught in 2008 and Hochul hitched onto in NY26 may dissipate in the breezes off the Vineyard.