Tom Barrett

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On June 5, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to decide whether to recall controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker and his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch. The current polling shows a close race. But while it’s not yet clear whether Walker will survive the vote, it’s increasingly safe to declare one winner and one loser from the recall election. The winner is the national Democratic Party, which is already reaping benefits.

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If your image of Milwaukee is largely derived from Laverne and Shirley re-runs, think again.

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