Scott Walker’s Victory, the Wisconsin Recall and Its Meaning
The Obama factor
…Even with the Republican victory on Tuesday, it remained an open question whether Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee, can assume the momentum of Mr. Walker’s campaign. In exit polling of voters, 18 percent of Walker supporters said they favored Mr. Obama, and the president led in a matchup against Mr. Romney. Voters in the exit surveys also said they saw Mr. Obama as better equipped to improve the economy and help the middle class. …NYT
Does Walker’s win mean President Obama is going to lose? Certainly not. Exit polls from Tuesday’s vote showed the same electorate that retained Walker would have voted for Obama over Mitt Romney by a wide margin, 53 percent to 42 percent. (Though these exit polls appear to have underestimated Walker’s winning margin, pre-election polls found similar results.) Alec MacGillis has suggested that this may reflect a desire to maintain the status quo among independents satisfied with the general direction of the economy. And November’s electorate won’t be the same one that retained Walker.
But if the recall is not a harbinger of the presidential election, it is also not meaningless as a foretaste. The massive mobilization drive — more Wisconsinites were projected to turn out for a special election in the middle of June than turned out for the November 2010 election, a shocking feat — gave both parties a chance to test-drive and fine-tune their sophisticated voter-turnout operations, as well as a peek at what the other side is capable of. One Wisconsin Democrat involved in the presidential election told me the recall has been an invaluable opportunity to vet and refine voter lists. Republicans have similarly been boasting for weeks about the voter-contact operation they activated to get out the vote for the recall. …Molly Ball, The Atlantic
Conservatives will respond to this by insisting that this battle proves that they’re winning the war of ideas, and indeed, national Republicans were quick to claim that tonight’s results bode well for November. Recalls are quirky; exit polls showed a big Obama lead; and polls have not shown national support for Walker’s agenda. So it seems unlikely that tonight’s outcome says anything too predictive about this fall.
But the outcome does say something important about the developing post-Citizens United landscape, and should prompt a major reckoning over how Dems, the labor and the left should deal with this new reality going forward. …Greg Sargent, WaPo
Republicans keep the Legislature
Republicans prevailed in at least four recall elections on Tuesday for other offices, including a race for lieutenant governor, which the incumbent, Rebecca Kleefisch, won. Scott Fitzgerald, the State Senate’s majority leader, who had ushered much of Mr. Walker’s agenda through the Legislature, also survived. Late Tuesday, votes were still being counted in one State Senate race in Racine, an outcome that will determine which party narrowly controls the chamber, at least until November. ...NYT
Democrats “weaker than they thought”
Yesterday’s recall vote is not necessarily a bellwether for the general election, not necessarily a sign that Mitt Romney can win a slew of purple states, not necessarily proof that the country is ready to throw in with Walker’s fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan on issues of spending and taxation.
But neither is it anything like good news for liberalism. We are entering a political era that will feature many contests like the war over collective bargaining in Wisconsin: Grinding struggles in which sweeping legislation is passed by party-line votes and then the politicians responsible hunker down and try to survive the backlash. There will be no total victory in this era, but there will be gains and losses — and the outcome in the Walker recall is a warning to Democrats that their position may be weaker than many optimistic liberals thought. … Indeed, there’s no liberal agenda to speak of at the moment, beyond a resounding “no!” to whatever conservatism intends to do…Ross Douthat
…Or not so weak
Exit polls showed that Democrats had captured nearly 69 percent of the voters who made up their minds in the past few days. But it wasn’t enough. …WaPo
Then there’s the money …
It also provides a look ahead at the first presidential race defined by unlimited donations from super PACs. …WaPo
Being outspent 10-1 (or worse) is never a recipe for success in a race. Democrats cried foul over Walker’s exploitation of a loophole that allowed him to collect unlimited contributions prior to the official announcement of the recall in late March. Of course, Democrats also pushed the recall and Walker played by the rules of the game — making what he did strategically smart rather than underhandedly nefarious. …Chris Cillizza
Total spending on the race exceeded $65 million, and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Mike McCabe said once all the numbers are totaled that figure could exceed $75 million, doubling the maximum ever spent on any political campaign in the state.
That number was buttressed by a loophole in Wisconsin law that allowed Walker to raise unlimited donations from individuals for months, while Barrett had hard caps on his donations and could only begin fundraising two months ago when the recall became official. That allowed Walker to raise nearly $30 million and outspend Barrett by nearly 10-to-1. Walker and his allies more than doubled the amount Barrett and his backers spent on the race. …The Hill
Governor Scott Walker survived a historic recall vote on in Wisconsin Tuesday, and while exit polling data indicated a double-digit advantage for Obama over Romney, New York’s John Heilemann said on Last Word that the result contains some bad news for Obama as well. “There is one electoral effect here that is not good for the President, which is that in a hotly contested state election where to some extent it about a contest between outside money and boots-on-the-ground, grassroots organizing on the other side — money won,” Heilemann said. ...Daily Intel
Walker’s win also has major implications for Democratic elected officials across the country. It shows with crystal clarity that Republicans may very well be able to successfully use the new, post-Citizens United landscape to weaken the opposition in a structural way, and to eliminate major sources of support for that opposition.
“This has enormous implications for Democratic elected officials everywhere,” Andy Stern, the former president of SEIU and now a senior fellow at Columbia University, tells me. “Under the guise of acting to restore balance, [the right] is dramatically decreasing the amount of resources public unions have to participate in the political process.”
Indeed, one way of thinking about tonight’s results is that they say at least as much about Citizens United, and the ways it has empowered opponents of organized labor, as they do about the very real decline of union power. An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found that Walker outraised his vanquished opponent Tom Barrett by nearly eight to one, and that outside groups supporting Walker vastly outspent unions, thanks to Citizens United. …Greg Sargent, WaPo
Walker’s heavy early spending clearly helped him. The pre-election polls suggested that Barrett was closing in on Walker in the final days, and he clearly was. The exit poll found that eight percent of the voters said they decided how to vote in the last few days, and they went overwhelmingly for Barrett, 69 percent to 27 percent. The rest of the electorate that decided earlier went for Walker, 55 percent to 44 percent. It’s intriguing to imagine what Barrett might have done with more money that he could have spent earlier. Money matters. …EJ Dionne, WaPo
… And the smarts?
Say what you will about his policies but Walker is a damn good campaigner and, from the moment he knew a recall election was likely, he did everything he could to ensure he came out on top.
From fundraising to moderating his image in the wake of the collective bargaining war, Walker understood from very early on the threat that the recall posed to him. Unlike other politicians ( Dick Lugar, we are looking at you) who got caught off guard by the forces aligned against him, Walker was ready and waiting. And it paid off. …Chris Cillizza
It’s important to remember, as Democrats cope with their failure to topple Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Tuesday’s recall, that this was a fight they chose.
Unlike the vast majority of elections, which occur on a regular schedule, the recall was a fight the left picked on purpose. They picked it because they thought they could win. And they were wrong.
It wasn’t even close. …Molly Ball, The Atlantic