Monday, June 4, 2012

If Walker Wins, What Are the Lessons?

John Fund
Wisconsin may be in play, labor is split, and voters are worked up.

It looks as if Governor Scott Walker will survive Tuesday’s recall vote. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls has him leading Milwaukee’s Democratic mayor Tom Barrett by 6.6 points. As of late Sunday, the betting site Intrade was predicting that Walker has a 94.5 percent chance of becoming the victor. Even Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is now saying the recall wasn’t smart. “Don’t get an election that’s divisive, that may have an influence on the presidential election,” he told MSNBC last week. “We made a mistake doing that.”

If the recall fails, what will be the takeaways from the 17 months of pitched war that Wisconsin has endured since Governor Walker proposed his dramatic reforms of pensions and privileges in the state’s public-sector unions?

Expect the Left to Blame Obama

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times dismissed Obama on Sunday as someone who “prefers to float above, at a reserve, in grandiose mists.” When the likes of Dowd are no longer feeling the love, we shouldn’t be surprised that other Democrats are dumping on Obama for not showing up to help Barrett in Wisconsin. “Progressive Pundits Lay Groundwork to Blame Obama if Wisconsin Recall Fails” was the headline of a searing critique by Noah Rothman at Mediaite. He quoted Ed Schultz of MSNBC sarcastically noting that the president was in neighboring Iowa and Minnesota last week and that his campaign office is in nearby Chicago. “It’s all around, but is it in?” Schultz asked of the Obama campaign. “[Union members] want him on that line because he talked about being on that line with them back in 2007.” Schultz closed his plea for an Obama visit by saying it is the “job of a leader” to motivate his followers.

Liberals view Wisconsin as a state that is “leading the way in reshaping American’s view of the role of government,” Rothman emphasizes. “President Obama has abandoned that fight, noting correctly that it is not likely to be won,” he says. “But progressive pundits . . . are right — this is not just another election. . . . It is a fight with broad implications that President Obama has abandoned. The question now becomes, can they [progressives] forgive this betrayal ahead of a tough election in the fall?”

Wisconsin Is Now in Play for November

The state hasn’t voted Republican since Ronald Reagan’s reelection effort in 1984, and Obama won it easily by 14 points in 2008. But the state can be competitive. Both Al Gore and John Kerry carried it by only a handful of votes — many of which may have been fraudulent, as a 2007 Milwaukee Police Department report showed.

By this fall, Wisconsin’s new voting law will probably be in effect. It limits same-day registration abuses and requires voters to show photo ID at the polls; this should reduce the role of last-minute fraudsters such as the infamous Park Avenue heiress who pled guilty to flying to Milwaukee in 2000 and passing out cigarettes to homeless people in exchange for their promise to vote for Al Gore.

The psychological blow of losing yet another recall campaign would surely reduce enthusiasm and turnout on the left, while leaving Romney with an extensive campaign infrastructure in the state: 22 offices set up by Governor Walker, firmly in place only five months before the presidential race.

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