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Recall FAQ: Everything you need to know about Tuesday's elections

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In two more districts, Democratic challengers have run even in most polls while at some points opening narrow leads. State Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay, has mounted a remarkable grass-roots campaign against Republican Sen. Alberta Darling in suburban Milwaukee's 8th District, while state Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, is mounting a similarly aggressive challenge in the small cities and rural communities of central Wisconsin's 14th District.

If Pasch or Clark wins, the Democrats will get to three and, if they both win, which is possible, that's relatively comfortable control of the Senate.

In two other races, Democrats are competitive -- trailing narrowly in most polls but easily within the margin of error. Former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum, a former Republican, has been seen in recent weeks as closing rapidly on Republican Sen. Rob Cowles in the Green Bay area's 2nd District, while Shelly Moore, a teacher who has inspired passionate support in northwest Wisconsin's 10th District, has shocked political veterans by making a real race of her challenge to Republican Sen. Sheila Harsdorf.

If either Nusbaum or Moore wins, the Democrats will have control of the Senate, no matter what happens in the Aug. 16 recall elections of the two Democratic senators.

Q: IS IT POSSIBLE DEMOCRATS COULD TAKE CONTROL OF THE STATE SENATE THIS TUESDAY AND LOSE IT THE FOLLOWING TUESDAY?

A: Yes.

The Senate is currently split 19-14, with Republicans in the majority. If three or more Democrats win this Tuesday, control of the Senate will shift from the Republicans to the Democrats.

For instance, three wins this Tuesday would give Democrats a 17-16 majority.

Four wins this Tuesday would give Democrats an 18-15 majority.

In either of those cases, it is possible that the Democrats could lose the Senate on Aug. 16, as voters could defeat one or both the Democrats who are facing recalls.

Q: IS IT LIKELY EITHER OF THE DEMOCRATS WHO FACE RECALL VOTES WILL LOSE?

A: One of the Democrats, Sen. Rob Wirch of Kenosha, looks to be in a very strong position. Kenosha, the main community in historically Democratic District 22, has always been a strong union town. Rallies for Wirch have been huge and enthusiastic. The Republican candidate, Jonathan Steitz, is a corporate lawyer from Chicago who was nominated in a very low-turnout GOP primary. He is not a likely winner against Wirch, who is well-known and personally popular.

In northern Wisconsin's 12th District, the race between Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin and Republican challenger Kim Simac, a tea party favorite who has been talked up by Glenn Beck, is likely to be closer. But Holperin, who survived a recall two decades ago, has worked the district hard and seems to be in a reasonably strong position.

If Republicans are down one seat after Tuesday's voting, they will focus hard on Holperin and the battle for rural northern Wisconsin's 12th District will shape up as the final slugfest of the recall season.

Q: WHAT IF DEMOCRATS ONLY WIN TWO SEATS TUESDAY? DOES THAT MEAN WALKER MAINTAINS ABSOLUTE POWER?

A: Not necessarily. If Democrats pick up two Republican seats Tuesday and hold the two Democratic seats that are up for election Aug. 16, the split in the state Senate will be 17-16 in favor of the Republicans. But one Republican senator, Dale Schultz, a western Wisconsin moderate, broke with his party on the labor issues and has in recent weeks been distancing himself from the governor. Schultz has been touring the state with a moderate Democratic senator, Tim Cullen of Janesville, and the two made a big deal about looking for places where they can work together on issues. Additionally, Schultz has spoken out publicly in recent days about how he felt that the governor and Republican legislative leaders thwarted his efforts to find a compromise with the unions during the dispute over the budget repair bill.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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