Editor's note: Alan J. Borsuk is a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. He is a member of the team behind the Marquette Law School Poll. He was a reporter and editor for 37 years at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has reported on Wisconsin politics since the 1970s.
Milwaukee (CNN) -- My 91-year-old mother finds a lot of things aggravating. Drugstores that run out of things that are on sale. Typos. And phone calls from Mitt Romney. Quite a few phone calls from Mitt Romney. Also from Rick Santorum. And other people advocating for each of them. She's had enough. Also the television ads. Do they have to run so many?
This is one time my mother and the rest of Wisconsin appear to be in sync. The political atmosphere that has prevailed since February 2011, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker launched his proposals to strip public employee unions of almost all of their power, remains supercharged.
But as one big event follows another, with more coming soon, there is also a widespread sense that it's all getting to be too much. How much can one state take? A sense of political fatigue appears to be growing just as events are coming to a peak.
Actually, they're coming to quite a few peaks, which is part of the problem.
There's the peak that comes Tuesday, with the Republican presidential primary. Romney and Santorum, the two front-runners, have been up and down, particularly in the eastern half of Wisconsin the last few days. It's been rare in the last few decades for a Wisconsin primary to be consequential, but the general assumption is that if Romney beats Santorum, Romney will pretty much seal the deal as the GOP nominee. So this is kind of a big deal.
Then there's the peak that will come over the next few weeks: a recall election in which Walker, who took office only 15 months ago, will face a Democratic challenger, quite possibly the person he defeated in November 2010, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The recall, only the third for a governor in American history, was ordered after more than 900,000 people signed petitions. A Democratic primary with -- as it appears at the moment -- four candidates will be held on May 8, with a final election June 5.
At the same time in recall-happy Wisconsin, Walker's lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, will also face a recall, making her the first lieutenant governor in American history in that situation, and four state Senate seats held by Republicans will be involved in recall elections, with control of that house of the Wisconsin Legislature in the balance.
Then there are the fall elections, with the strong prospect that Wisconsin will be a key battleground between President Barack Obama and the Republican nominee. Then there's an open seat for the U.S. Senate. Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl is retiring, and a heated Republican primary for that nomination is shaping up for August.
So that totals up to major election days in April, May, June, August and November. It also means the prospect -- already being demonstrated -- of amazing amounts of campaign spending, much of it by independent groups; of robocalls inundating people across the state, and a level of television advertising that some experts say may leave Wisconsin viewers in the unenviable position of being exposed to more political spots in one year than virtually anyone else in U.S. history. It adds up to more than $100 million worth of political advertising in one state over 11 months.
If one were to rank these election dates in order of interest, the Walker recall would be at the top of the stack.
Tuesday's presidential primary may be a big deal in the national perspective, but it has been a relatively low-passion event at ground level. According to polls, Romney trailed Santorum in February; he was ahead in the last few days. Wisconsin has a large number of conservative voters, but the religiously motivated aren't as numerous as they are in Southern states, where Santorum has done well. Plus, it appears many Wisconsin Republicans, starting with powerful Rep. Paul Ryan, want to get the nomination race over and unite behind Romney. As in other places, support of Romney doesn't appear to mean high enthusiasm.
The Walker recall, on the other hand, carries huge implications for Wisconsin's political climate for at least the next few years. Walker remains a polarizing figure like few who have ever crossed the landscape of the state.
In almost any conversation with people who are not directly working in campaigns, the exhaustion factor comes up quickly. When will it all end? How many more ads can we take? How bottomless are the checkbooks of donors, especially the small- to midlevel donors?
These concerns are sort of like the old Yogi Berra line about the restaurant that nobody goes to anymore because it's too crowded. Wisconsinites are worn down precisely because so much is going on, so many people are in various forms of uproar, and the parade of amazing political events doesn't seem to stop.
But in a state that historically has had very high voter turnout, one of the things that will be important to watch in coming months is how many people come to the polls. Will turnout begin to droop? If so, to whose advantage or disadvantage?
At what point does fatigue become a major player on the battlefield of Wisconsin politics, and a 91-year-old woman who would prefer some political peace and quiet become a key opinion leader?
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alan J. Borsuk.