Governor Scott Walker invested a great deal of courage in his gubernatorial campaign and in what he did after he was elected. Today he enjoyed an early payout. He became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. He improved his margin of victory over his earlier match against Tom Barrett from 5% to what looks to be 8%.
I haven't seen any good turnout numbers, but they look to be extraordinarily high. All the stops were pulled out on this one by both sides and the result was that Walker improved his numbers in most of Wisconsin's counties. It is possible that Democratic enthusiasm was depressed by the nomination of Barrett over Kathleen Falk, the Union favorite, and by Barrett's decision to downplay the union angle. But that is just another way to say that the opposition to Walker's agenda was a loser. Today's election is as vivid a mandate for Walker's policies as representative democracy ever supplies.
The decision to mount a recall challenge to Governor Walker wasn't stupid, it was just disastrous. When it was made, the radicals and public unions in Wisconsin felt the wind at their backs. If they could have brought Walker down, that would have been a major victory in Wisconsin and nationally. It was a gamble. Sometimes gambles go bad. Ask Napoleon.
It has damaged Barack Obama in two ways. One is that he declined to appear in Wisconsin on Barrett's behalf. It is not hard to reconstruct his campaign's thinking. They thought Barrett was going to lose and they didn't want to be involved in a loss. That just reinforces the view that he is all spreadsheet and no production. If he had gone to Madison he would at least have shown that he had heart, that the core of his party could count on him to fight for them to the end. They obviously cannot.
It is possible that Barrett didn't want Obama to come to Madison. His appearance might have energized the opposition as much or more than it energized the anti-Walker forces. Okay. That indicates the second problem that Walker's victory poses for Obama. The Republicans have been winning every statewide election in Wisconsin since 2010. Their coalition coalesced today stronger than ever. Will it evaporate before November? Walker raised a lot more money that Barrett. Some of that money was spent on building a get out the vote operation that will be in place come November.
The President's reelection team has been counting Wisconsin as a given. Apparently it is not. That means that the President will have to spend time and money trying to win the state back. How exactly does he do that if he was afraid to show up in the state in June? Let's put it this way: Obama has to hope that Mitt Romney is a lot less palatable to Wisconsin voters than Scott Walker was. You see the problem.
ps. It looks as if the Republicans won all of the Wisconsin State Senate Recall elections as well. Not a bad day, that.
I take it back.