Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, heads into a contentious recall vote Tuesday with a slim lead over his Democratic rival, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The recall has deeply divided the Badger State, which has been in political turmoil ever since Walker led a fight last spring to effectively strip public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights. The Wisconsin showdown pits budget-slashing conservatives against unions and government workers, reflecting a larger ideological struggle playing out at the national level. And yet, President Obama chose to sit on the sidelines instead of stumping for Barrett, a decision that critics say could cost Barrett a narrow victory. Should Obama have campaigned in Wisconsin?
Yes. Obama is abandoning the unions: Democrats in Wisconsin have been "actively asking for the White House to send either" Obama or Joe Biden to the state, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, says Noah Rothman at Mediaite. The Wisconsin recall is more than a mere state election: It's a "battle for the soul" of American governance. Clearly, Obama doesn't want to waste time, energy, or money on what may be an embarrassing loss, but the unions abandoned out of political calculation may not be able to "forgive this betrayal ahead of a tough election in the fall."
"Progressive pundits lay groundwork to blame Obama if Wisconsin recall fails"
No. The cost of defeat is too great: In 2010, Obama had to "endure a series of stories about whether he had lost his mojo" after his campaign appearances in Massachusetts failed to prevent Republican Scott Brown from winning Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Just months before the presidential election, Obama isn't "willing to risk being too closely associated with a defeat." The recall vote "is a reminder that politics is a tough business where looking out for No. 1 is more than a cliche — it's a way of life."
"Should President Obama have gone to Wisconsin?"
Either way, Wisconsin will be a battleground in the fall: A Republican resurgence "has burst into full view" in Wisconsin, "spilling into the presidential race," says Jeff Zeleny at The New York Times. Obama won Wisconsin by a whopping 14 points in 2008, but a victory for Walker could energize Republican voters and allow Mitt Romney to "compete on terrain that not long ago seemed squarely on Mr. Obama's side." Obama "holds multiple paths to re-election," but they have "always shared a common trait: Winning Wisconsin."
"Recall battle in Wisconsin may snarl Obama camp"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- After Ferguson, we don't need another dialogue on race
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- How Hillary Clinton's 'smart power' turned Libya into a dumpster fire
- In defense of Obama's golfing
- The government is getting into the fact-checking business. Be very, very afraid.
Subscribe to the Week