Wisconsin's recall: Who has the most to lose?
Union-busting Gov. Scott Walker faces a dramatic recall election on Tuesday, and the stakes are "absolutely massive" for politicians and donors on both sides
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who controversially revoked the collective-bargaining rights of public employee unions in a dramatic showdown last year, is favored to survive Tuesday's bitterly fought recall vote, although Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) has closed the gap to within the margin of error in recent polls. "The recall election has drawn massive amounts of national attention and money — $63.5 million and counting," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. In many ways, this is the second most important election this year, after the presidential contest, and "the stakes for a number of players on both sides are absolutely massive." Here, a look at some of the people and causes that will take a big hit if their side loses:
If Walker wins...
Labor unions loseThe recall drive began when the governor pushed through his anti-union bill, says Michael O'Brien at MSNBC. So "organized labor arguably has more on the line in Tuesday's recall election than any other constituency." A Walker win would be more than just "bad news for public employees and poor people everywhere," says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast, because Republican governors across the country would feel emboldened to "replicate some of [Walker's] schemes" to crush unions in their states.
Tom Barrett losesThe Milwaukee mayor "is the forgotten man in all of this, but he's got a lot on the line, too," says The Washington Post's Cillizza. Barrett will still have his current job if he loses, but this is his third run for governor, and if he loses his rematch against Walker, who beat Barrett in 2010, that "would amount to the end (or darn close) of Barrett's statewide ambitions."
Liberals loseSome 15 months of "progressive organizing, petitioning, canvassing, and campaigning" to unseat Walker has led to "a progressive movement that is deeper and broader than before," says Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Washington Post. But if liberals lose the Battle of Wisconsin, "a whole generation of activists and 'progressives' raised on Howard Zinn" will face bitter disappointment — and gain "an important life experience," says Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest: "The 'people united' are defeated more often than not in American politics."
President Obama losesObama tweeted his support for Barrett on Monday night, but didn't campaign for him in the state — drawing jeers from Walker and other Republicans, not to mention griping from Wisconsin Democrats. But that doesn't mean the president is insulated politically from the election, says Jeff Zeleny at The New York Times. Mitt Romney's campaign would see a Walker win as a green light to try to make this once-comfortably-blue state red in November, and the presumptive GOP nominee "intends to start building a campaign operation off the robust get-out-the-vote machinery assembled" by pro-Walker groups.
If Barrett wins...
Scott Walker loses"No one has more to gain or lose than Walker," says The Washington Post's Cillzza. Obviously, he would lose his job if Barrett pulls off an upset. But it would also be "a major setback for a politician widely viewed as a rising star" in the GOP. If he wins, Walker becomes "a national conservative hero" and potential future presidential candidate. That would make a loss all the more painful: After all the money and energy poured into his campaign, a Walker comeback "would be decidedly difficult."
National Republicans loseWhile the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign have poured about $1.4 million into the race, the national Republican Party has gone all in, says John Avlon at The Daily Beast. That's partly because of the stakes, and partly because "the Wisconsin GOP dominates the Republican National Committee," starting with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a Wisconsin native and close friend of Walker's. More than just politics, "this is personal — an ideological fight playing out on their home turf." A loss would sting badly.
Big GOP donors loseThe same dynamic is at play with the deep-pocketed conservative donors who have dumped cash into Walker's coffers, says Tomasky at The Daily Beast. Big liberal donors like "George Soros or Peter Lewis may not have even heard of Tom Barrett," but for right-wing billionaires like Charles and David Koch, "Walker is their beau ideal." And it's not just the Koch brothers, says vanden Heuval. Walker has raised $31 million from a veritable "Who's Who of America's Billionaires," most of them out of state: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Amway founder Richard DeVos, Swift Boat funder Bob Perry — they've all got big money on the line Tuesday.
Down-ballot Republicans loseWalker isn't the only state official who could lose his job on Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators are up for recall, too — and if just one senator loses, Democrats gain control of the state Senate. "There has been virtually no public polling conducted on the local races, so it's hard to gauge who has the upper hand," says Sean Sullivan at National Journal. But it's safe to say that if Walker does well, his coattails will help his party keep the Senate, and if he fails to turn out enough voters, the down-ticket incumbents are in trouble, too.