The victory this week of first-time candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg against a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice closely aligned with Governor Scott Walker shows how far Wisconsin has progressed in the past few months. In the November election Walker took office by winning fifty-nine of the state’s seventy-two counties. In the Supreme Court election on Tuesday, Kloppenburg took nineteen counties that Walker had claimed only five months before. The Nation’s John Nichols joined Chris Hayes on MSNBC yesterday for a conversation about this dramatic transformation.

The victory was slim—Kloppenburg came out a little more than 200 votes ahead of the incumbent—and a recount is expected. But Nichols says that Kloppenberg’s success combined with the fact that Walker’s union-busting legislation has yet to be implemented because of legal challenges shows that the state’s vibrant protests have transformed into valuable a political force.

“Six months ago, nobody in Wisconsin knew who JoAnne Kloppenburg was,” he says. “We find out that she has, apparently, beaten one of the senior political figures in the state, a long serving justice on the state supreme court, who was also speaker of the state assembly…. This is a lesson that ought to be learned in states like Ohio, Michigan and all the way up the political food chain to the White House.”

—Sara Jerving