Well, here we go with the overstated reactions to the Wisconsin recall results. I already tried to head off one thread of the overreaction—the notion that Scott Walker’s victory spelled doomed for President Obama in Wisconsin. But now I see that there is another front where the punditocracy’s going way overboard—the notion that Wisconsin pretty much spells the end of public employee unions, if not all of organized labor.
It’s always a mistake to over-interpret a single state or local election, because special circumstances unrepresentative of broader trends may have had a large effect on the outcome. Would Barrett have done better if he had been able to deploy against Walker the months and millions he was forced to divert to win his party primary before the recall? What if he had enjoyed the full-throated support of his party from President Obama on down?
Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election probably doesn’t tell us much about the state of the presidential campaign. But it probably tells us a lot about the state of American politics. If you’re a progressive or somebody suspicious of corporate power, the message is not good. Walker got elected and set out to attack the public employee unions—not to extract concessions from them, mind you, but to undermine them an economic and political force. The unions perceived Walker’s effort as a mortal threat, rallied to defeat him, and failed.
Amid the big mood swings last night as exit polls gave way to real vote tallies, one question began to rise above the din: how to reconcile Scott Walker’s victory with exit polls showing that a majority of voters—52-43 percent, according to the Washington Post—would vote for Barack Obama in November? We can argue about just how much those exit polls can be trusted, given that they suggested a stronger result for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett than he ultimately received. Still, it’s clear that there was a crucial sliver of voters who backed Walker but plan to support Obama in the fall.
Wisconsin by the Numbers Scott Walker cruised to a 53-46 win in the Wisconsin Gubernatorial Recall, stunning Democrats expecting a tight race after early exit polls. Walker's victory was built on a GOP-friendly electorate, even whiter, older, richer, and less Democratic than the 2010 midterms, let alone 2008. Seniors represented 18% of the electorate, up from 16% in 2010 and 14% in 2008. The non-white share of the electorate fell from 11% in 2008 to 10% in 2010, to 9% in 2012. 20% of voters made more than $100,000/year, up from 16% in 2010 and 19% in 2008.
Molly Redden suggests that today’s vote in Wisconsin bears no clear relation to November’s presidential election. I beg to differ. The Wisconsin recall election is to the 2012 general election as the Spanish Civil War was to World War Two—not necessarily a harbinger of the final outcome but rather a preview of strategies and tactics. As such, we’ll get early evidence bearing on some questions that will be important in the fall. Can a labor-intensive ground game match a cash-intensive air war?
Today’s special election in Wisconsin is definitely historic. The contest, which pits Republican governor Scott Walker against Democrat Tom Barrett, is the denouement of fierce backlash against Walker’s union-stomping policies, and it marks only the third time in U.S. history that a governor has been subject to a recall. But historical importance doesn’t automatically confer electoral importance, a fact few Beltway-dwellers seem to grasp.
Pretty much all previews of Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin are framing it as a precursor of the November election, and declaring that a win for Scott Walker, the Republican incumbent who is up for recall, would necessarily bode terribly for Barack Obama in Wisconsin and beyond. I don’t buy it. And that goes the other way, too—I don’t think Democrats should take away too much optimism for their fall prospects if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett pulls off an upset win.
If you happen to have turned on cable this last month or so, you’re aware that Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, faces a recall election tomorrow against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Well, so much for Scott Walker's brand of Republicanism being all about forward-looking, green-eyeshade bottom-line reform. It's flown mostly under the national radar this week, but Walker decided to go old-school, late-1980s-style, with a TV ad conjuring the menace of inner-city crime to attack his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.