Commentary Magazine


Recall Puts Wisconsin Into Play for GOP

The decision by Democrats and their union allies to try and defeat Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker via recall is increasingly looking like a bad bet. The latest poll numbers out of the Badger State show that Walker leads all possible Democratic challengers in the vote that is scheduled for June 5.  The best showing of the four Democrats in the race was from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who trailed Walker 50-45 percent. Walker bests Kathleen Falk by seven points and both Doug La Follette and Kathleen Vinehout by ten points. The Public Policy Polling survey conducted for the Daily Kos also showed that while Wisconsin voters are nearly evenly split about Walker’s job performance, 51 percent approve of him.

By bowing to the dictates of an angry labor union movement and pushing for a recall, Democrats gambled that they could knock off Walker and set the stage for a reversal of the 2010 Republican tidal wave that swept the governor and a GOP legislative majority into office. But if they fail in June, it will not only encourage Republicans to think they might steal the state from President Obama in November, they will have immeasurably strengthened Walker.

As the Daily Kos itself notes in an analysis, these numbers show a remarkable improvement for Walker over the last poll taken by PPP. The reason for this is that for the first time the poll screens for likely voters. So not only is Walker clearly in the lead to retain his job, Mitt Romney has also made significant inroads against President Obama in a key swing state, with the likely GOP nominee now trailing the incumbent by 50-44 as opposed to the 53-39 margin in February.

The Daily Kos does hold out some hope for the left, because Democrats have been so focused on their own gubernatorial primary that they have yet to unleash an avalanche of negative ads on Walker. Theoretically, the four weeks between the primary and the recall will give the Dems enough time to raise Walker’s negatives and give them a chance. But the problem with this reasoning is Walker’s foes have spent the last year and a half working overtime to demonize him because of his successful efforts to reform the state’s finances and restrict the power of state worker unions to hold Wisconsin’s fiscal future hostage to their demands for more money and benefits. It’s not likely that a fresh assault from the left is going to alter the public’s opinion of him now.

The point here is that unless something happens to shift opinion, the recall effort is likely to be a bust that will render Walker virtually bulletproof for the rest of his current term in office and help put Wisconsin in play for the presidential election.