Gov. Walker could win Wisconsin's recall election

Democrats seem to have fallen asleep at the switch, not realizing that Wisconsin could be a harbinger of the November election. Photo: Mayor Barrett (L) and Gov. Walker (R) debated last Friday AP

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2012 — In one week, on Tuesday, June 5, Wisconsin voters go to the polls to decide if Republican Gov. Scott Walker will stay or be recalled. Once it looked like his goose was cooked.

Angered when Walker eliminated most collective-bargaining rights for public employees to balance Wisconsin’s budget, 100,000 protestors took to the street for weeks. The battle pitted neighbors and families against one another, making Wisconsin one of the most polarized states in the country, and finally culminated in the petition drive to dump the Governor.

500,000 signatures were required to force a recall election and the petitioners had nearly a million. Government employees, fire fighters, teachers, farmers, and union employees rejoiced. The recall election was theirs to win. Or so they thought.

But now a week out, the polls and money raised tell a different story. And if the Democratic Party doesn’t do something soon with a big infusion of money to get ads on television and to turn out the vote, Gov. Walker will be sitting pretty.

Which Way Will Bellwether Wisconsin Go?

Wisconsin protests that led to the recall election

True, Wisconsin has a history of being progressive even when Republicans are in charge thanks to politicians like Fighting Bob La Follette, the Republican governor and senator in the last century. But then there were the years of Republican Senator Joe McCarthy who in the 1950s was the conservative stalker of all things Commie.

So Wisconsin has a chance to once again decide which path to follow, small government conservatism or populist progressivism.

Most of the polls have shown Gov. Walker leading Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by six or seven points. The latest poll done at the request of the Democratic Governor’s Association shows Walker’s lead down to only 3 points, but there is only a week left to whittle that number down further and give Barrett the edge. Is that possible at this late date? 

Then there is the issue of money. It just hasn’t been there for Barrett while Walker has seen an inoculation of $25 million come in from out of state, a lot from the Koch brothers. Talk about a shot in the arm. That’s life support for any candidate who needs to buy airtime. And Walker and the Republicans have already spent $7 million on TV since late March, outspending Barrett by 3 to 1.

Walker’s TV ads have burnished his image and tarnished that of his opponent. That’s what campaign ads do and it has been working successfully for weeks now. No doubt about it, money buys momentum.

Where Has the Democratic Party Been?

Gov. Walker on the campaign trail AP

Barrett has raised about $1 million and finally the Democratic National Committee is getting out fundraising letters for Democrats to send contributions directly to Barrett. Is it too little too late?

The bigger question is, where has the Democratic Party been? Democrats seem to have fallen asleep at the switch, not realizing that Wisconsin could be a harbinger of the November election. Perhaps the leaders haven’t understood the significance of this race and how it is tied to their own political fortunes and whether President Obama can win Wisconsin again. Can they be that naïve or is it arrogance?

Whatever the reason, no matter how good Barrett’s ground game is, if your opponent is defining you on TV with his ads, often with bogus claims, you are facing an uphill battle.

So if Barrett loses and Walker is still sitting in the governor’s mansion on June 6, what that would mean for Democrats and President Obama?

A Walker Win Could Tip Swing State Wisconsin to Romney

Mayor Barrett on the campaign trail AP

  • The ripple effect down ticket could have severe consequences come November. Remember, this is Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s state, he of the famous or infamous, depending on your perspective, Path to Prosperity, aka the Paul Ryan Budget. There are huge pockets of conservatism in Wisconsin, just waiting for a Walker win and giving them the energy to elect their other candidates. 
  • Remember only two years ago, Walker and his Republican cohorts swept into office, taking “the governor’s mansion, both chambers of the state legislature, a Senate seat and two House seats.”
  • With Democratic Senator Herb Kohl retiring, the Republicans smell blood in the water and think they just might nab that seat, made all the easier if Walker wins on Tuesday.
  • Then there’s the Presidential race to worry about. President Obama took Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008, but much has changed since then and it wasn’t necessarily the Change he was promising. Keep in mind that President Bush 43 came within one point of winning Wisconsin in 2000 and 2004. So Wisconsin is in play and a Walker win could be the tipping point.
  • Democrats will be demoralized if Walker wins, not only in Wisconsin, but everywhere. Wisconsin is a bellwether state for Democrats. If Democrats can’t beat Walker after their tremendous efforts of the past year, Democrats elsewhere will ask themselves, is it possible we don’t have the Right Stuff?
  • The unions will fold their tents and go home, saying, “See. Told you so. Democrats talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, they aren’t there for the working guy.” If the Democrats turn their backs on the unions in Wisconsin, expect to see the unions turn their back on Democrats nationwide.

So What Should Democrats Do?

  • Some of have suggested it is time to send in the vice-presidential pit bull, Joe Biden. He connects with working and middle class voters. After all, he’s a Scranton, Pa. guy, coming from a hardscrabble background. He would galvanize and energize the base. His appearance in the state would get free TV (who needs ads?). And Biden doesn’t pull his punches. Just ask Obama.
  • Time for the Democratic War Room to go into overdrive. They should be churning out ads right now to go up this week. These are pros who can produce an ad and have it in the market within two days. Plus Democrats have the money to do it
  • And it’s time for donors in state and out to cut checks to Tom Barrett for Governor to help him pay the bills, keep the lights on in the headquarters, and, if necessary, to hire young people to staff the phones and canvass the neighborhoods. Barrett needs to intensify the grassroots work and that takes an infusion of money.

The Democratic Party has been so enthralled with the Presidential race, it has become guilty of the forest and the trees syndrome with President Obama’s reelection as the forest, November’s looming reality. However, Mayor Barrett (and Wisconsin) appear not to have been even a tree in that forest, but more like a sapling. 

All the more reason for the Democratic leadership to nurture it, for there will be no more forests without saplings. Now that’s political reality.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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