WASHINGTON, June 6, 2012 — Gov. Scott Walker handed Democrats and unions a resounding defeat Tuesday night, winning the recall election 54 to 46 percent and sending a warning shot across the bow of the Obama campaign.
Walker’s triumph over Milkwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signals many things both for Democrats and the unions, some tangible and some psychological, but either way the Walker victory will have an impact far beyond Wisconsin.
This time the Republican nominee Mitt Romney got it right when he called Walker with congratulations, crowing that the results “will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin.”
Here’s why he is right:
1. Wisconsin is no longer a safe state for President Obama to win in November.
Don’t think so? The Obama campaign manager Jim Messina has already moved Wisconsin from “solid Democrat” on his Electoral College map to “toss-up.” That is a big concession.
Keep in mind that no Republican candidate has won Wisconsin since 1984 when Reagan trounced Mondale by 9 points. And to refresh your memory, Obama won Wisconsin in 2008 with 56% of the vote.
Or as former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, currently running for the GOP nomination for the Senate, said before the election: “If we win on Tuesday, this is going to be a shot in the arm and adrenaline that we didn’t expect to have. It is going to spark fervor in the presidential race.”
While it is true the Wisconsin exit polls on Tuesday night showed voters favoring Obama over Romney by seven points, don’t forget those same exit polls showed the recall race was going to be tight, maybe even a nail biter until the wee hours of the morning.
2. Wisconsin becomes vulnerable in the state races in November.
Republican hopes have to be soaring even as the state senate power shifted from Republicans to Democrats, thanks to the win by former state Democrat Sen. John Lehman who beat GOP incumbent Sen. Van Wanggaard.
While it a psychological win for the Democrats, the Wisconsin senate won’t be in session until January 2013, unless the governor calls a special session. But before then, the Democrats will have to defend their seats in a general election in November. So they are still very much at risk.
If they win in November, the Democrats could make political life for Walker extremely difficult. But that is a big IF. Will Obama win Wisconsin in November and will his coattails be long enough to sweep Democrats across the state back into office?
3. Republican governors and legislators will feel embolden to pass laws that further diminish the power of public worker unions.
Already efforts to do so are underway, as evidenced in Ohio and Indiana, blaming them for the states’ financial woes. Actually the drive to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights is part of an effort to turn off the spigot of money from unions to Democrats.
As union membership shrinks in this country, so do wages, and so does the middle class, but Democrats have yet to make this a cogent argument to protect unions.
Since President Obama played it safe and never showed up to campaign for Barrett or even send in Vice President Joe Biden, don’t look for unions to beat the drum for the President’s reelection come this fall. Oh sure, they will say all the right things on cable news, but look to see where they are on the ground or how much money they contribute. Obama didn’t have their back, why should they have his?
All Obama could muster on behalf of Barrett was a tweet Monday afternoon and a tweet so feeble, it was more of a chirp: “It’s Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I’m standing by Tom Barrett. He’d make an outstanding governor
The unions’ recall effort was betting the house and they lost the bet. This defeat has weakened their power and psychologically diminished their impact as a force to be reckoned with, not only in Wisconsin but everywhere.
4. Big money is the grease that lubricates victories.
If there was a sobering lesson to be learned Tuesday night, it was that big money, no, humungous money, trumps grassroots. The cash that flooded into Walker’s coffers from outside the state to the tune of $26 million made it possible for the governor to outspend Barrett seven to one.
That translated into scathing TV ads, on the ground efforts, and field workers. The “elbow grease” tactics that the liberal pundits were touting before the election to get voters to the polls didn’t have a chance against a barrage of TV ads.
Right-wing money poured in from the likes of Americans for Prosperity and the ubiquitous Koch brothers, David and Charles, making those ads possible. Expect to see lots more of their moola polluting the airwaves this fall.
And can we finally put to rest the myth that negative ads don’t work. They do work. People may not like them, or so they say, but nastiness resonates long after the ad has faded from memory.
5. Look for Democrats to be demoralized and Republicans re-energized.
Will the effects of Wisconsin wear off as we move into summer? Doubtful because there is real psychological baggage to such a defeat. It wasn’t even close. The President played it safe and hid out, keeping his distance from Wisconsin. The Democratic Party was too late in getting involved with cash and strategy.
Democratic candidates will now be looking over their shoulders and asking themselves, “Do you guys really have my back? I mean, hey, look at Wisconsin.” The Democrats on the ground, the ones who make elections happen who can tip the turnout by “elbow grease,” will wonder what happened to the turbocharged warrior of 2008 who fired them up. Where is the guy named Barack Obama whose mojo invigorated them to battle for the soul of the country?
Sadly as Romney said, the Wisconsin election will continue to “echo” across America.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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