Around 9 p.m. Tuesday, an hour after polls closed in six districts where incumbent Republican state senators faced recalls, an upbeat crowd of many hundred Democratic supporters gathered outside the Capitol to catch the live broadcast of MSNBC's "The Ed Schultz Show," which was devoted to the recalls.
Chanting "This is what democracy looks like!" and hoisting pro-union, recall-Gov. Scott Walker signs for the cameras, the scene was reminiscent of the daily protests that became the norm earlier this year after news first broke that Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature planned to strip most collective bargaining rights from public workers.
The energy behind those protests also set the recall efforts in motion, but by midnight Tuesday, the mood was much more somber.
Three was the magic number, the net number of seats the Democrats needed to win back control of the Senate. But in the end, only two of the Democratic challengers were able to pull off victories -- Jessica King, who defeated Sen. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac; and Rep. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, who defeated Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse -- leaving Republicans still in control of the Legislature.
Republican Sens. Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen and Robert Cowles all held on to their seats Tuesday and two Democratic senators, Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Jim Holperin of Conover also have to face recall votes next week.
But despite all that, many in the crowd and top Democrats seemed undeterred from their ultimate quest of removing Walker from office three years before his term expires.
"We went on their turf and we won on Republican turf," Democratic Party Chairman, Mike Tate, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, referring to the party's two victories. "We will not stop, we will not rest . . . until we recall Scott Walker."
Ann Fedders had similar thoughts. She's a resident of the small town of New Richmond located near Wisconsin's western border, 45 minutes from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She voted against Harsdorf early Tuesday before making the drive to Madison. Fedders says she went to high school with Harsdorf, but has never voted for her because of their political differences.
While the vote to recall Harsdorf was unsuccessful, Fedders says a statewide attempt to recall Walker would likely play out differently, at least in her neck of the woods.
"People would more readily recall Walker," Fedders says. "Harsdorf's family is part of this community. I don't think voters would have the same personal connection to Walker."
For his part, the governor declined to comment on how the results of Tuesday's recall elections boded for his own safety in office.
By state law, elected officials cannot be recalled until they have served for one year. A campaign already is under way to collect signatures for those who would be interested in signing the "official" recall-Walker petition, but those signatures cannot be turned in until Jan. 3, 60 days after the one-year anniversary of his election.
Walker's office did, however, release a statement early Wednesday morning in regard to Tuesday's recall elections.
It stated, in part, that voters last November "sent a message that they wanted fiscal responsibility and a focus on jobs." The statement said Walker had "reached out to the leadership" of both parties earlier Tuesday evening.
"I shared with them that I believe we can work together to grow jobs and improve our state. In the days ahead I look forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for Wisconsin and move our state forward."
But moving the state forward means ridding the Capitol of as many Republicans as possible, says Karl Markgraf, a village of Dane resident who was hoisting a "recall Walker" sign on the Capitol grounds Tuesday evening.
When asked if it was possible to recall the governor even if Democrats were unable to win back the Senate, Markgraf, a construction worker from a union family, says "absolutely."
The number of signatures required to trigger a recall election for Walker is 540,208, or one-quarter of the roughly 2.2 million votes cast in the last gubernatorial race.
"Come January, he's doomed," Markgraf says.
Despite the fact that spending on the nine recall races already is estimated by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to be around $36 million, money could be a factor in proceeding with an effort to remove Walker from office. Only $5.5 million of that total was raised and spent by the candidates themselves. The rest was spent by special interest groups in what was an unprecedented effort on a national level to influence one state's legislative races. The stakes were high because national Democrats and Republicans saw the recall fight in Wisconsin as a major test case for election themes in 2012.
"If efforts to upend the Senate fail, it is a huge expense to add a gubernatorial recall election," says UW-Madison political science Professor Charles Franklin. "And there may actually be limits to how much (money) is available for these races."
Prior to the closing of the polls, Franklin also expressed doubt about enthusiasm for a Walker recall if Democrats failed to take back the Senate.
"If the results fall short of three, then the pro-recall forces need to decide if it is strategically a good move to try and recall Walker," he says.