Commentary Magazine


Topic: Wisconsin recall election

Don’t Forget About Scott Walker

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.

Read More

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.

It was just a year ago that Walker was actually the center of the Republican universe as he won a smashing victory in the recall election that liberals forced on Wisconsin. Though Rubio, Paul, Cruz and others are all vying for the affection of Tea Party voters, it was Walker who was on the cutting edge of the movement after he took office after the 2010 election and actually began to put its ideas to work. By challenging the public worker unions, he became the focus of an unprecedented attack by the left. Liberals who claim congressional Republicans are obstructing President Obama’s agenda cheered when the Democratic minority in the Wisconsin legislature used illegal tactics to try to stop it from meeting or voting. Union thugs tried to intimidate Republicans in massive demonstrations in Madison. But Walker, who went farther than other reform-minded governors that year, stood his ground and not only won those crucial legislative battles but actually gained a bigger majority when he was forced to face the voters more than two years earlier than scheduled in the recall election. Moreover, he can now boast that the $3.6 billion deficit he inherited has been transformed into a surplus.

The drama unfolding in Washington on immigration, the budget and the investigation of the various Obama administration scandals has diverted many of those thinking about 2016 from the idea that the strength of the GOP isn’t in the Senate or the House but out in the country with Republican governors. Walker hasn’t just talked about pushing back against the power of the government; he’s done something about it in a way that no individual senator can. He’s also done it in a manner that is far more comprehensive than even Christie’s impressive wins in New Jersey and he’s done it in a state that generally votes for Democrats in presidential elections.

There are steep obstacles to a Walker presidential run.

One is the fact that it is doubtful that Walker and Ryan would run against each other. If Ryan were to demonstrate serious interest in 2016—something that is by no means certain but which would be considered natural as the 2012 vice presidential nominee—that might edge Walker out of the race right there.

Another is the fact that Walker must, as Christie is doing this year, win re-election as governor before even thinking seriously about 2016. Unlike Christie, who has swung to the center in the last year and whose photo ops (including another one today) with President Obama have helped him in New Jersey (though hurt him with Republicans elsewhere), Walker hasn’t trimmed his sails. Democrats, who understand they overreached and alienated many voters who didn’t necessarily agree with Walker’s policies but thought the recall was wrong, will view Walker as one of their top targets in 2014. Though he will go into that race a favorite, he won’t have an easy time of it and will be pressed about whether he will serve out his second term.

Last, as long as events in Washington dominate the headlines, it’s hard for a politician who goes to work in Madison, Wisconsin to get attention. Walker won’t make it onto the radar of the national press unless and until he actually starts running for president.

But anyone who has heard the way Republicans react whenever Walker’s name is mentioned or he appears know that there is no figure in the party that has a tighter grip on the affections of its grass roots. While the big guns blaze away at each other on the cable news stations, it’s important to remember that if Walker runs, he could be a real factor in 2016 and not just in Iowa.

Read Less

Is the AFL-CIO Bailing on Obama?

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.

Read More

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 timing of the announcement is bound to feed into speculation that the unions are mad about the president’s wise decision not to waste any of his own political capital on the Wisconsin recall. In the closing weeks of that campaign, the White House rightly saw that there was much to lose and little to gain from a presidential campaign stop in Wisconsin to bolster the flagging effort to oust Republican Governor Scott Walker. Though he was rightly mocked for only contributing a solitary tweet of encouragement to Walker’s opponent, no amount of presidential involvement would have saved the unions from their foolish desire to exact revenge on Walker for his successful campaign to cut back their ability to hold the state hostage in contract negotiations.

But even without the anger about their loss in Wisconsin, the AFL-CIO’s decision marks a sea change in the way our national campaigns are fought. In past decades, the union movement was a central, if not the major player in organizing Democratic presidential campaigns. The Democrats are no longer solely dependent on big labor, and they also understand that the price paid for too much help can be politically expensive. Nevertheless, the unions remain an important part of the Democrat coalition, and if they have decided to stop being players in electoral politics, the void they are leaving behind will be difficult to fill.

Though President Obama will probably not miss the union money too much, other candidates further down on the Democratic ticket will. It’s one more sign that a difficult election year just got a bit tougher for the president and his party.

Read Less

Did Super PAC Really Swing Wisconsin?

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.”

Read More

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.”

One side is almost always outspent in politics, and Democrats certainly didn’t seem concerned when Obama was outspending McCain. But was Wisconsin really different because of the Citizens United decision, as liberal pundits have claimed? At the Examiner, Conn Carroll finds zero evidence that Citizens United had an impact in the race:

But the Center for Public Integrity link…proves no such thing. Yes, [Tom] Barrett was outspent heavily. But none of the money spent on Walker’s behalf would have been illegal before Citizens United either. …

At no point in CPI’s entire article do they cite a single example of conservative spending that would have been illegal before Citizens United, but is legal now.

Read the rest of Carroll’s piece, where he shoots down the different claims about Citizens United and political spending. Citizens United is the crux of the Democratic argument about Wisconsin, but so far they’ve presented no evidence it had an effect.

Read Less

MSNBC’s Four Stages of Political Grief

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.

Read More

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.

Call it the four stages of liberal grief. You can watch the whole pathetic, desperate drama play out here .

Read Less

More Bad News for Unions From California

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.

Read More

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.

To those who cry foul over the pension reform measures in California or Walker’s clipping of the unions’ wings in Wisconsin, we need to point out that treating public employees as a privileged class is what we might find in dictatorships, not a democracy. The ascendancy of the unions was the product not only of political muscle but the vast expansion of government during the last century. The bigger government got, the greater its appetite for revenue and the more leverage state worker unions had. Having used that power to extract exorbitant contract concessions from the people supposedly representing the taxpayers, the unions were determined to hold onto their grip on the nation’s purse strings.

But like any Ponzi scheme, this was a concept that had to go bust sooner or later. The costs of these contracts and pensions continued to grow with only the seemingly unlimited power of the government to confiscate more of the taxpayers’ income to pay for it. The Tea Party revolt that swept the nation in 2010 was an expression of the public’s disgust at the way states and cities were locked into spending patterns that could not be sustained. Rather than merely stopping the spigot of public funds flowing into union coffers, Scott Walker sought to put in place measures that would ensure unions could never again put a figurative gun to his state’s head in order to get a bigger share of the budget. In California, mayors have acted similarly by passing measures that will reverse the giveaways conducted by their predecessors.

Scott Walker’s defeat of a union movement determined to punish him for undermining their hold on Wisconsin’s finances as well as the result from California ensures that others will follow in those footsteps. The era of unions holding up states and cities is over. A new age of fiscal sanity may not be far off.

Read Less

What Scott Walker’s Victory Signals

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.

Read More

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 epic 2010 mid-term election was foreshadowed by three races in particular – the victories by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey in November 2009 and Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January 2010. They were clear signals of what awaited Democrats in November 2010.

Scott Walker’s crushing win in Wisconsin – which occurred only 154 days before the presidential election — has a similar feel to it. Wisconsin ain’t Utah; it is the home of Robert La Follette and a state with a strong progressive tradition. Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008 and it hasn’t gone Republican since 1984. For Governor Walker to win by the margin he did, based on the agenda he’s enacted, is a sign that the political currents in America strongly favor conservatism and the GOP. Even in Wisconsin.

Intelligent Democrats know that. Which is why panic is spreading throughout their ranks this morning. They see another huge wave forming and growing. And right now, they have no idea how to avoid it.

Read Less

What Wisconsin Means for November

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.

Read More

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.

Last night’s exit polls still showed Obama with a double-digit lead. But they also showed Walker and his opponent Tom Barrett in a dead-heat, when Walker actually won the race by seven points — raising doubts about the accuracy of the exit polling.

Republicans may also have the ground game on their side. The Democratic Party relies heavily on unions to organize on the ground, but if Big Labor couldn’t get out the vote for Barrett against Walker — public enemy #1 for unions — they’ll likely also have trouble rallying support for Obama, whose relationship with the unions has been shaky at times.

Not only were Wisconsin Republicans able to out-organize the unions, they’re also passing this on-the-ground support directly to the Romney campaign, Politico reports:

The flip side: Republicans end the showdown more motivated than ever. Conservatives have arguably their best ground operation in place of any of the 50 states — and it’s all going to be transferred to Romney.

A Republican National Committee official confirmed the two dozen Walker campaign offices would immediately be converted into Romney working space as soon as later this week.

Romney’s Wisconsin co-chair, former State Sen. Ted Kanavas, said the campaign has already taken lessons from Walker’s well-oiled early vote effort and targeting tactics.

“We’re going to try to leverage everything that was learned and apply it to November,” he said.

Add that to the massive energy boost the Walker victory gave Republicans, as well as the signal that independent voters are receptive to Walker’s reform message, and these are promising signs for Romney next November.

Read Less

White House Wisconsin Spin Won’t Wash

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.

Read More

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.

It is true that the size of Walker’s victory was in no small measure the result of moderate disgust at a union vendetta that was rightly seen as an attempt to override the verdict of the voters in 2010. Some of those who cast ballots for Walker may wind up drifting back to the Democrats in November to back President Obama. Yet the Democratic defeat — and the widespread dismay by liberals at the way the president gave the recall his half-hearted support will have repercussions for his party.

Walker’s win is just one more of a string of recent events that are starting to convince the nation that Obama is likely to be a one-term president. Along with the growing list of economic statistics that make a summer economic recovery unlikely, the stunning conservative victory in Wisconsin will make it harder for the president to claim that Republican solutions are unpopular or that support for entitlement reform is a sign of extremism.

Instead of merely a local political fight that got national coverage, the failed recall may prove to be a decisive moment in an election that looked only a few months ago to be the president’s to lose. Though five months is a lifetime in politics, Wisconsin could be the moment when Mitt Romney’s campaign moves into overdrive and the rickety nature of the Obama re-election effort becomes manifest. The presidential election wasn’t won in Wisconsin on June 5, but the recall may be best remembered in the future as the tipping point that transformed Obama from a likely winner to an incumbent headed to one-term status.

Read Less

Walker’s Example: Courage Rewarded

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.

Read More

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.

It should be recalled that in the spring of 2011, after the newly elected Walker and the Republican majority in the Wisconsin legislature decided to keep their campaign promises and to pass legislation that would restrain the ability of unions to hold states hostage, the conventional wisdom heard was that Walker had overplayed his hand and would be punished by the voters–even if he overcame the thuggish attempts of both the unions and the Democratic minority in the legislature to stop him.

It was widely believed that the controversy his stand on collective bargaining rights and the ability of unions to automatically deduct dues from unwilling members would never stand up if he were to be forced to face the voters again. Last year, even many Republicans thought Walker had gone too far and praised those GOP officials who avoided the sort of fight the Wisconsin governor had dared to make. That is why Wisconsin liberals and the union movement were sure that a recall would not just work but set an example for Republican governors throughout the nation.

Walker has not only proved them all wrong, but established that even in a generally blue state like Wisconsin with a long tradition of a strong labor movement, it is possible to challenge the unions and not just win, but win big.

After his recall victory, never again will union thugs storm a state capitol, as happened last year in Madison, secure in the belief that they had the muscle to intimidate a governor and a legislature with a fresh mandate for change from the people. Never again will liberals assume that the status quo they defend with such fervor is unassailable. The reforms Walker advocated and then passed have been shown to be more than theoretical ideas aired at symposiums at conservative think tanks. His recall victory shows that rather than being an example of how extremists always fail, he may well prove to be the first of a wave of reform-minded conservatives to successfully defeat the unions.

All it took for Scott Walker to accomplish what every liberal editorial page in the country was sure was impossible was the courage to try. The reward for his courage will ensure that he won’t be the last to make the attempt.

Read Less

Exits: Obama Voters May Back Walker

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.

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.

Read Less

Dems Prepare Backup Plan in Wisconsin

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.

Read More

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.

And they are also petitioning the state Government Accountability Board to investigate the allegations:

Meanwhile, State Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, sent a letter to Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy asking for an investigation into that alleged call and another that claimed the election was Wednesday.

“It is imperative that your agency uphold the law and criminally prosecute any person that is engaged in voter suppression and disenfranchisement tactics that violate the spirit and plain language of the laws of Wisconsin,” Taylor wrote.

So far, there’s nothing to substantiate the claims, outside of Salon’s account from a Barrett supporter. In fact, news reports and statements from the state Government Accountability Board indicate that voter turnout has been remarkably high today.

Read Less

What May Be Won in Wisconsin

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.

Read More

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.

In terms of its impact on government budgets, the rise of public sector unionism is one of the most significant chapters in modern American political history. Coinciding with the enormous growth in government during the course of the 20th century, state worker unions won their right to employ collective bargaining tactics in the heyday of the New Deal-era Democratic political coalition and have since ruthlessly used them to expand wages and benefits to rates that have long since eclipsed those of the private sector. Free from the restraints of the market that brought some private industry unions back to earth and equipped with the power to bring vital government services to a standstill through strikes and slowdowns, state worker unions spent the last several decades on an unprecedented winning streak. Though many tried, few governors or mayors had the guts or the political juice to stand up to the unions. Even conservatives often bought peace and political safety by paying off the powerful leaders of the unions with lucrative deals that sacrificed the fiscal future.

It is this impossible situation that has brought not just the federal government but virtually every state and city to the edge of ruin in recent years. And it is the public’s revulsion against the taxes and spending required to sustain these contracts that engineered the Tea Party revolution of 2010 that brought Republicans like Walker to office. But Walker wasn’t satisfied with merely pledging to bring a halt to union giveaways. What he did was to promote and pass laws that altered the skewed playing field that had given the unions so much leverage against the state. At his behest, the Republican-controlled legislature passed laws that took away some collective bargaining rights from unions and also ended their ability to automatically deduct dues from state workers rather than having those funds come to them voluntarily. The result of these reforms is that the unions won’t be able to hold up Walker or his successors. Without the threat of union blackmail, Wisconsin now has a chance to put its fiscal house in order.

That’s why we should not worry so much about whether a Walker win will hurt President Obama’s chances of re-election (though it will) and ponder just how much the political landscape in states all around the country will be altered by his example. The defeat of the recall may mean that other governors now in office and still others who may be elected this year will gain the courage to stand up to their unions and pass similar reforms. By contrast, if Walker is defeated, you can bet no politician will repeat his courageous stand in the foreseeable future. If the stakes are high tonight it is because it is that outcome — one that will directly affect every state’s ability to balance its budget — that is hanging in the balance with the recall results.

Read Less

Democratic Disaster Looms in Wisconsin

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.

Read More

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.

Looking back on the process that led them to this situation, the problem for the Democrats is that there never seems to have been a point at which either state or national party leaders sat down to ponder a cost/benefit analysis of an attempt to unseat Walker. The political drama that unfolded in Madison throughout 2011 was an emotional roller coaster on which liberals realized only too late the ride had no escape hatch.

Wisconsin elected a Republican governor and legislature in 2010 as the Tea Party revolt against President Obama and his stimulus and ObamaCare plans fed conservative anger about taxes and spending. Much to the surprise of his foes, Walker and his allies in the legislature decided they would fulfill their campaign pledges and seek to ensure the state worker unions would be prevented from dragging Wisconsin steadily over the financial cliff again. Though the proposal to cut back on some collective bargaining rights for state workers was controversial, the violent reaction from the union thugs who stormed the statehouse and the absurd decision of Democratic legislators to flee the state to avoid a vote on the measure didn’t help the liberal cause. Though Walker may have seemed vulnerable after winning this battle, the idea to push for a recall was based on emotion, not political calculation. Liberals were so angry at Walker for keeping his word to the voters and not backing down in the face of protests that they never stopped to think that an effort to reverse the 2010 election results would strike many voters as both unnecessary and unfair.

The immediate problem in Wisconsin for liberals is not so much that Walker has persuaded a majority of voters that he is right — though there is clear evidence he has made headway despite the avalanche of criticism he got in the mainstream media — but that even many of those inclined to side with the Democrats have been convinced the left is dead wrong. The recall election is rightly perceived as nothing more than a form of payback for the drubbing the unions got in the legislature last year, and that has left a bitter taste in many voters’ mouths. If Walker survives tomorrow, the consequences will not only mean he will be strengthened, but that Democrats will emerge looking both petty and weak.

But the blowback from this foolish effort will not just be felt by a thuggish union movement that thought it could intimidate Walker last year and bulldoze the state in 2012. It will be President Obama, who won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008, who may ultimately pay the biggest price for the rush to recall. Though a Republican has not won the state’s electoral votes since Ronald Reagan did it in 1980 and 1984, it should be remembered that George W. Bush came close in 2000 and 2004. If it turns out the state changes back from solid blue to tossup, President Obama will look back at a recall that was the fruit of his supporters’ unchecked anger as the source of his troubles.

Read Less

Another Nail in the Wisconsin Recall Coffin

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.

Read More

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.

Money has apparently been drying up for Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, for the same reason Confederate bonds weren’t selling well in late 1864. But the DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose job is to elect Democrats to Congress, has decided to help. One can only wonder how Wisconsin Democrats running for Congress feel about that.

One must not count unhatched chickens. But the drama that began in January 2011, as Walker sought to implement the platform he had run on the previous November and the public-service unions fought him by all means fair and foul, is beginning to look like the Götterdämmerung of trade union political power in Wisconsin and perhaps the nation.

Read Less

Labor Headed for Wisconsin Catastrophe

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.

Read More

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.

A victory in a recall would not only humiliate Walker and discourage conservatives around the country in advance of the presidential election. It would also legitimize the unions’ thuggish obstructionism in 2011. The unions sought by means of intimidation and extra-legal efforts to stop the legislature from voting to prevent Walker from fulfilling his campaign promises about enacting a fundamental reform of the budget process.

Walker stood his ground last year and passed measures that will prevent municipal and state worker unions from holding the state hostage and bringing it to the edge of bankruptcy. His effort to remove some — though not all — of their collective bargaining rights led to his demonization in the press and a vicious campaign aimed at making it impossible for Walker to govern.

But rather than making an example out of him and showing that any challenge to union domination of state government will be punished, the recall may turn out to have the opposite effect. It may not only elevate Walker to a figure of national stature. It could effectively demonstrate that the power of the union movement is finished.

With three weeks to go before the June 5 recall, the Democrats and unions will pull out all the stops in their quest to defeat Walker. But with the GOP governor already holding a large lead, President Obama — to whom the unions once looked for help in this struggle — would be well advised to stay out of Wisconsin until after the vote. He doesn’t want any of the taint of what may well be a catastrophe for the left to be attached to his re-election campaign.

Read Less

Wisconsin Surprise

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.

Read More

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.

But Walker’s vote total (with 94 percent of the vote counted) was 584,929. The entire Democratic field, in a hard-fought contest, garnered only 596,089 votes. In other words, an awful lot of people turned out to support the governor and his reforms in an election he was sure to win anyway.

That’s impressive and bodes well for his chances on June 5.

 

Read Less

Wisconsin Recall Shows Citizens United Bolstered Democracy

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.

Read More

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 Times makes clear that the unions, just like their conservative opponents, have been allowed by the law to put forward their positions unfettered by the attempt of liberal campaign finance laws to restrict expenditures. And while the paper does its best to bolster the contrived story line that this is a battle between working people and the billionaire Koch brothers, the political showdown in Wisconsin is one in which the voters will be allowed to decide whether state employees will be entitled to force the state into bankruptcy. The result is a political free-for-all in which both sides are having their say. Had the Times and other supporters of campaign finance laws had their way, the unions and the conservatives opposing them would have been largely silenced.

The Times does deserve credit for puncturing part of the left’s propaganda campaign against Charles and David Koch, the industrialists who have been falsely smeared as the plutocrats funding a vast right-wing plot to destroy democracy. It turns out liberals attempting to promote boycotts against companies owned by the brothers, including Georgia Pacific, have been criticized by the unions that represent the firm’s workers because the brothers’ companies treat their employees well and have negotiated fair contracts with them.

The attempt to demonize the brothers because of their support for conservative think tanks has flopped. So, too, may the recall, in large measure because Wisconsin voters, who elected Walker and a Republican legislature in 2010 when they campaigned on the measures that they have since passed, understand what is at stake in the election. The recall is nothing less than an all-out power play by unions who realize that their grip on power and the public purse is slipping. Reformers like Walker are determined to put in place a process that will prevent Wisconsin from being pushed to insolvency by public worker contracts that are negotiated with a figurative gun to the state’s head in the form of strikes.

That the Times can write more than 1,200 words about this without mentioning the fact that Walker is leading in the polls says something interesting about the paper’s bias. But it is even more interesting that the thrust of the piece proves that the editorial position of the paper about Citizens United trashing democracy is utterly without basis.

Read Less

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.

Read More

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.

Read Less

Thug Democracy on Display in Wisconsin

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.

Read More

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.

The Wisconsin recall is being seen as an indicator of how the fall presidential election may go. Given that polls there show the race to be dead even, perhaps that is right. But the conduct of Walker’s opponents ever since he took office last year has demonstrated that the notion of liberal civility is a fallacy. Union thugs sought to physically harass legislators and the governor last year while the Democratic minority in the state house took to hiding out in another state in order to prevent the democratically-elected majority from holding a vote on issues where they disagreed with Walker.

Like the Occupy Wall Street protesters who pose as the guardians of democracy but instead actively seek to suppress the free speech of their opponents, the Walker-haters are not content with a mere discussion of the issues. So it is hardly surprising to learn that Walker’s family is being treated with the same lack of civility.

Neither side in our political battles has a monopoly on virtue or good behavior. But the assumption by the left that only the right engages in bullying can only be preserved by willful blindness. The good name of the trade union movement has been tarnished by conduct in Wisconsin that blurs the line between bad manners and criminal harassment. We suspect the voters of that state will be more influenced by the spectacle of anti-democratic conduct by the left than they are by liberal demagoguery against Walker’s prudent attempt to reform the state’s finances.

Read Less

Walker Recall Will Be Referendum on 2010

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.

Read More

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.

As today’s Public Policy Polling survey shows, Democrats and their union allies have a real chance to knock off an icon of the GOP’s landslide 2010 midterm victory. Walker’s record is viewed unfavorably by a 52-47 margin, and he trails both likely Democratic challengers, though only by a small amount that is within the margin of error. However, the notion that the vast majority of citizens are clamoring for his eviction from the governor’s office is at best overblown. When asked whether they favor a recall, the result is a flat-footed tie, with 49 percent favoring one and the same number opposing the vote.

It should also be noted that this poll comes at a moment when the GOP is at its nadir in terms of national popularity. A nasty presidential nomination fight is reaching its climax in neighboring Michigan while the economy is on a light uptick, boosting President Obama’s fortunes. Unless you assume, as perhaps some Democrats do, that things will only get worse for Walker and the Republicans during the next few months, the governor may well reason he has nowhere to go but up.

It bears repeating that Democrats are taking a big chance by going after Walker. If they win, they will have effectively reversed the verdict of 2010, and it will be rightly seen as an omen foretelling a big Obama victory in November. But if they lose, it will be just as big a morale boost for Republicans and also set up Walker as a major figure in national politics. Seen in this light, Democrats and state union activists must know if they fail to defeat Walker now, they may well live to rue their defeat in years to come as he rises even higher in national esteem.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.