In the six months since Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney, the pundits have largely ignored one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party. The people considered to be the obvious leading candidates have dominated the conversation about the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan. All of them have potentially large constituencies within the party and would be formidable contenders. Nor should the potential of Ted Cruz be dismissed. There is also a case to be made that 2012 holdover Rick Santorum is being underestimated just as he was last time. But why have we forgotten about Scott Walker?
The Wisconsin governor’s appearance at an important Republican fundraiser in Iowa last night got him back on the radar of pundits, and rightly so. It’s not just because Walker teased Republicans with his repeated mentions of being raised in the first caucus state and his close ties to it, though that sort of rhetoric is exactly the sort of thing that seems like a prelude to a presidential campaign pitch. The point about Walker dipping his toe into the Hawkeye State’s early politicking that potential presidential rivals are also engaging in is that he is not just another Republican governor. Though he got lost in the focus on Romney’s defeat and the dramatic rivalry in the Senate that is emerging between Rubio, Paul and Cruz on national issues like immigration, Walker still has a cult following among conservatives that stands him in good stead as GOP senators duke it out on divisive issues and Christie concentrates on winning re-election in a manner that continues to alienate the Republican grass roots.
Payback for President Obama’s decision to refuse to get personally involved in the Wisconsin recall fight may not be long in coming. U.S. News reports that the AFL-CIO will “redeploy funds away from political candidates” in the coming campaign in favor of spending on strengthening the union movement’s infrastructure. The magazine’s Washington Whispers blog quotes a spokesman as saying that this will mean a drastic cut in donations to candidates including the man at the head of the Democratic ticket, but that “this will not be a slight to President Obama.”
This is, as the magazine points out, a major policy change for the organization that once provided much of the money and the muscle for the Democrats’ national campaigns. But whether it is being done out of spite or, as is entirely possible, merely a recognition that the shrinking union movement needs to concentrate its dwindling resources on keeping itself alive, it must be considered a blow to a Democratic campaign that has already found itself facing a Republican presidential campaign that may be able to match the president’s ability to raise money. Either way, it is just one more sign that the Democrats will not be enjoying the same fundraising advantage in 2012 that they had in 2008. It also means that the AFL-CIO is conceding that its days as a national political force to be reckoned with are finished.
The left’s response to the Wisconsin rout is that their ideas weren’t rejected, but they were simply outspent by a flood of corporate, special interest cash. And it’s true the anti-Walker forces were outspent — by roughly the same ratio as Barack Obama outspent John McCain in 2008 — but obviously if Gov. Scott Walker’s policies were as draconian and abhorrent as Democrats claim then no amount of money could win him the election.
Still, Democrats are bringing back all the old conservative boogeymen — the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, corporate spending, Citizens United — in an attempt to turn the Wisconsin loss into an Obama campaign fundraising ploy. The Hill reports:
In an email to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called Tuesday’s outcome — and, more specifically, the super-PAC money spent on Walker — a “terrifying experiment.” …
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, agreed with that sentiment, saying Democrats learned a similar lesson in 2010, when they lost a slew of seats to Republicans.
“In 2010, we did not lose the House to House Republicans,” Israel told The Hill. “We lost it to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. In 2012, we did not lose the Wisconsin recall to Gov. Walker, we lost it to an 8-to-1 spending differential, most from out of the state.”
What do you do if you host a program for MSNBC and Republican Scott Walker not only wins his recall election in Wisconsin, but (a) wins more votes and wins by a larger margin than he did in 2010 and (b) deals a devastating blow to organized labor?
Easy. First you pretend a near-landslide election is going to be razor-thin. Then you toss out charges that Governor Walker may well be indicted in the coming days. Then you deny the Wisconsin loss hurts President Obama. And then you insist the election actually helps Obama.
As if the epic defeat of their effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wasn’t enough, the union movement got even more bad news from California last night when voters in San Diego and San Jose gave huge majorities to referenda that called for cutbacks to retirement benefits for municipal workers. If only a year or two ago states and cities throughout the country appeared helpless to stop the march toward insolvency caused by the enormous expenditures required to pay for the generous benefits and pensions given public employees, it now appears the tide has turned in favor of the taxpayers.
Where once there was no greater political power in most states than the unions representing state workers, these once mighty groups look like paper tigers. The voters have rightly determined that the burden of the contracts is too great for the taxpayers to bear in a time of a shrinking economy when private sector workers cannot hope to do as well. Politicians who feared to cross the unions or to stand up to them in negotiations — because doing so meant running the risk of strikes and slowdowns that could bring states and municipalities to their knees — are suddenly discovering the courage to not only say no to further demands on the public exchequer but to request and get givebacks that make fiscal sense. After Scott Walker’s big win in Wisconsin and the 66 and 70 percent majorities won in California, this could be just the start of a broad movement that will end the stranglehold unions once had on state budgets.
Governor Scott Walker’s victory last night – his seven-point win against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was by a greater margin than in 2010 – will have profound national ramifications. It was a historic defeat for organized labor, and most especially public sector unions. They chose Wisconsin as the ground on which they would make their stand and make an example out of Walker. Instead, they were decimated. In addition, Walker instantly becomes a dominant political player in the GOP, as well as a model to other reform-minded governors. The loss will also drive a wedge between President Obama and organized labor, which cannot be pleased at the indifference Obama showed toward this race. (Tom Barrett was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in 2007.) The president wasn’t there when organized labor needed him. They are likely to return the favor in November.
When combined with the dismal jobs report on Friday, the news Monday that new orders for U.S. factory goods fell in April for the third time in four months, and the downward revision of economic growth in the first quarter (to 1.9 percent) – all of which signal that our weak economy is growing still weaker – Democrats must feel as though the walls are beginning to crash down around them.
The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:
Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”
Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.
“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.
Given the decisive nature of Scott Walker’s recall victory, it’s not likely that Democrats who were prepared to cry foul if they lost in a squeaker will be talking about a “stolen election” after he won with 53 percent of the vote. Instead, the main Democratic talking point in the days after their recall debacle will be to claim that not only is it not a harbinger of more defeats in November but that it may not even have an impact on how Wisconsin will vote for president. Democrats were encouraged by exit polls that showed President Obama holding a big lead over Mitt Romney among recall voters. However, any liberal enthusiasm about the finding is bound to be diminished by the fact those polls were obviously skewed toward Democrats because the 50-50 split they predicted on the recall was disastrously wrong.
But the White House spin that the recall will have no impact on what happens in the fall is not just wrong because of the faulty exit polls. After months of attempts to interpret Republican and Democratic primary results in terms of their predictive value for a general election, Wisconsin didn’t just provide the country with its first partisan matchup of the year. It was the most bitterly contested state election in years, with money pouring in on both sides from around the country. And rather than being a test of personalities as most elections generally prove to be, the attempt by the unions and their liberal allies to take Walker’s scalp as revenge for his legislative achievements provided the country with a clear ideological battle. In a straightforward battle between liberals and conservatives, the latter won in a state that President Obama carried by 14 points in 2008. Anyone who thinks Obama isn’t in for the fight of his life there this year just isn’t paying attention.
There are a lot of ways to explain Scott Walker’s decisive victory in the Wisconsin recall election. Democrats will talk about the influence of money and, if they are honest, admit they were wrong to allow the anger of their union allies to drive them off the cliff as even moderates came to view the recall as an example of political misbehavior. Republicans will make hopeful predictions about this win being a harbinger of the defeat of President Obama this November even as the White House tries to claim it will have no influence on that race. But no amount of partisan spin can divert us from the basic narrative of this remarkable result: courage was rewarded.
In the face of an angry and violent union movement and hostile media, Scott Walker chose to attempt a fundamental reform of his state’s budget woes. He was told he couldn’t get away with it, and for a time it appeared as if his critics would make him pay for his resolve with his job. But by not merely surviving the recall, but winning big, Walker demonstrated that it is actually possible for a conservative Republican to not only win an election by promising change but to successfully deliver it.
Various sources reporting Wisconsin exit poll results are pointing in a number of different conflicting directions. Drudge is saying that sources are reporting that the exits will show Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker holding a five-point lead over his Democratic challenger in the recall. However, CNN’s polls are showing a 50-50 split. Lending credence to the idea of an edge for the GOP is the Washington Post, which reports that the exits paint a picture of an electorate that is remarkably similar to that of 2010 with conservatives outnumbering liberals 3-2 though moderates are still the largest group. However, CBS News is saying the poll shows President Obama has a 51-45 percentage point lead over Mitt Romney among those voters, a result that ought to give some hope to Democrats.
However, the latter result may not offer much solace to the Wisconsin unions and Democrats who have sought to oust Walker. The left’s vendetta against Walker has alienated many moderate Democrats who rightly perceive the recall as a function of the anger of their party’s base and not good politics or policy. Though the recall may be seen as hurting the president’s re-election chances, it may be that Democrats who believe the entire exercise is inappropriate will be the main factor that will keep Walker in office.
Even if Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker triumphs over Tom Barrett, a strong possibility based on the final polls, Wisconsin Democrats aren’t going to go down quietly. Politico reported this morning that state Democrats are already plotting to contest a Walker victory by demanding a recount, and now Barrett supporters appear to be laying the groundwork to blame their potential loss on Republican “dirty tricks.”
Salon reports on the unconfirmed assertions that Walker allies are trying to suppress Democratic voter turnout:
With both sides counting on dramatic turnout, Tom Barrett’s campaign is charging Scott Walker supporters with dirty tricks. In an e-mail sent to supporters last night, Barrett for Wisconsin Finance Director Mary Urbina-McCarthy wrote, “Reports coming into our call center have confirmed that Walker’s allies just launched a massive wave of voter suppression calls to recall petition signers.” According to Urbina-McCarthy, the message of the calls was: “If you signed the recall petition, your job is done and you don’t need to vote on Tuesday.”
Last night I talked to a Wisconsin voter who says she received just such a robo-call. Carol Gibbons told me she picked up the phone and heard a male voice saying “thank you for taking this call,” and that “if you signed the recall petition, you did not have to vote because that would be your vote.” …
Gibbons is a retired public employee and a staunch Walker opponent.
Not only are Democrats seizing on this to raise questions about election integrity, they’re also using it for last-minute fundraising, as Ann Althouse points out.
Today’s Wisconsin gubernatorial recall is being touted as the second most important election to be held this year. While the gap between this race and the one that will determine who will take the presidential oath next January in terms of the consequences for the country is enormous, the pundits are actually not engaging in hype when they speak of the impact of the recall in these terms. The outcome will be treated as a harbinger, one way or the other, of the November election, and given the ability of the press to promote self-fulfilling prophecies that may turn out to be true. But before we get too caught up in the purely partisan consequences of Wisconsin, it should be pointed out that the real impact of this contest relates to the issue that started this tussle: the fight to curb the power of state worker unions.
Scott Walker is not facing a recall just because Wisconsin Democrats want another crack at defeating him after his 2010 victory. Walker became the man with the bull’s eye on his back because he took his campaign promises seriously and set out to do something that would fundamentally alter the imbalance in the relationship between the unions and the state. If Walker survives the union’s attempt to exact revenge for his successful clipping of their wings, then it will be a model for other governors and states to follow. That’s something that could halt the national trend by which states and municipalities have allowed exorbitant contracts and benefits to push them all to the brink of bankruptcy.
With one day to go before Wisconsin voters vote to decide whether or not to recall Governor Scott Walker, polls are still showing the Republican clearly favored to retain his office. After more than a year of effort by a vengeful union movement and their Democratic allies, the decision to try to punish Walker for passing legislation that cut back on the power of unions to hold the state hostage in negotiations may turn out to be the biggest miscalculation of 2012. With President Obama looking on fearfully (and carefully avoiding any personal involvement in the contest), the only thing bitter Wisconsin liberals may have accomplished is putting their state in play for Mitt Romney this November.
With Walker looking like a winner tomorrow, the coverage of the race has shifted to a discussion of how the recall will affect the presidential contest, with even the New York Times now conceding the recall may have helped to turn Wisconsin from a solid Obama state in 2008 to a crucial swing state that could cost him re-election. If the GOP emerges victorious tomorrow, liberals will not only have transformed Walker from an embattled incumbent to a national powerhouse, but they may also have set the stage for a Democratic debacle that could cost their party the White House. If that happens, the party will have only their union allies to blame for a decision that was rooted in anger rather than smart politics.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel–Wisconsin’s largest and most influential newspaper—yesterday endorsed Scott Walker in the recall election to be held June 5. The newspaper said, “Even if you disagree with Walker’s policies, does that justify cutting short his term as governor? And if so, where does such logic lead? To more recall elections? More turmoil? It’s time to end the bickering and get back to the business of the state. We’ve had our differences with the governor, but he deserves a chance to complete his term.”
Intrade puts the governor’s chances of winning the recall vote at 84.6 percent, a huge lead. It puts Barack Obama’s chances of winning in November at a mere 56.9 percent. (Intrade is not a poll, per se. Instead, people bet real money on the outcomes—in other words, the people are putting their money—not just their opinions–where their mouths are.) In a more traditional poll, Walker is up six.
The labor movement and its left-wing allies in the Democratic Party thought they were doing something extremely clever when they reacted to their defeats at the hands of Scott Walker in the Wisconsin legislature by starting a recall campaign. The recall enabled the losers of the 2010 election where Walker and the GOP swept to power in the state to, in effect, get a do-over in which they could act as if the previous result didn’t really count. But as the latest polls from Wisconsin show, they are on the eve of a catastrophic loss that will not only leave Walker in power and stronger than ever but also deal the Democrats a crucial loss that may be a harbinger of more setbacks in the fall.
The latest We Ask America poll in Wisconsin shows Walker expanding his lead over the Democratic alternative, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker, who was shown in previous polls to have a smaller advantage, now is ahead by a decisive 52-43 margin. With Walker going over the 50 percent mark for the first time in this race, this is a devastating result as it was assumed that once the Democrats picked their candidate the race would get closer. Instead, Barrett’s victory in the Democratic primary over a candidate preferred by the unions seems to have reminded Wisconsin voters that they already had a choice between Walker and Barrett in 2010 and picked the former.
The primary elections in the Wisconsin recall vote were held yesterday, and there was no surprise on the Democratic side. Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, won as expected against Kathleen Falk, the preferred candidate of the labor unions. Barrett got 57.5 percent of the votes; Falk a pretty dismal 34.7 percent, with the rest scattered among three other minor candidates. Barrett is the more moderate of the two main candidates but still advocates returning to the status quo ante including restoring collective bargaining rights to the public service unions.
But there was a surprise on the Republican side, a big one. Scott Walker faced only a fringe candidate in the Republican primary, one who posed no threat to him. Indeed, Walker won with 97 percent of the vote.
Ironies abounded in the Sunday New York Times’ front-page feature about union efforts to force the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The newspaper is right about the fact that the recall may turn out to be a warm up for the presidential election this fall, but it speaks volumes about both the bias of the piece that nowhere in it does the Times mention the fact that all the recent polls of the contest show him ahead and gaining ground. Flawed though the piece was, it also served to skewer one of the main political narratives that the Times has worked so hard to promote in the last year: that the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision was undermining democracy.
As the article illustrates, far from the court’s defense of freedom of speech harming the political process, what it has done is to allow the free flow of ideas — and the cash that helps bring those ideas into the public square — to flourish as the public is presented with a clear choice between Walker’s attempt to reform public expenditures and the union movement’s effort to defend the status quo.
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.
Liberal conventional wisdom claims the rise of the Tea Party has put an end to any hope of civility in American politics and that the political right is a stronghold of intolerance that makes reasoned debate impossible. That’s the line President Obama and the Democrats have maintained while trying to portray the Republican Party as being in the grip of extremists. However, events in the battleground state of Wisconsin have once again given the lie to these liberal myths.
Just as unions and their liberal and Democratic allies sought to use physical intimidation to prevent the state legislature from considering or voting on measures they didn’t like, similar behavior is part of their effort to recall Governor Scott Walker. Politico reports that Governor Walker revealed that his family has been subjected to various forms of intimidation tactics during the past year with his children and elderly parents being harassed at a supermarket. His children were also targeted on Facebook.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has wisely decided not to challenge the validity of the petitions that were presented to the state demanding his recall. Rather than getting involved in a nasty Bush-Gore lawsuit he might lose even before fighting for his office, he’s better off simply going straight to the voters sometime this summer.
The hundreds of thousands of signatures were largely the work of his union opponents who hope to undo the results of the 2010 elections when the people of Wisconsin chose a conservative Republican for the governor’s chair as well as a GOP-run legislature. The vote will be something of a referendum on the 2010 election in which Wisconsin can, in effect, get a mulligan for its choice at that time. The recall will enable us to see whether the state was ready for a politician who meant what he said when he campaigned on a platform of pushing back against civil service unions that are driving states into bankruptcy. While the most recent poll rates this a tossup, the Walker vote represents both an opportunity and a danger to both parties as they seek a leg up heading into this fall’s presidential election.