The Wisconsin Recall and the Presidential Race

You may have thought it would never end, but a week from next Tuesday, the recall campaign against the Koch-bought Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, will end when Wisconsinites head to the polls for a vote that could end Walker’s tenure before his term is up. The revolt against Walker began with the the February uprising against a so-called “budget repair” bill that the governor pushed through the state legislature using strong-arm tactics, a law that largely revoked the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

For months, Democratic leaders at the national level have hemmed and hawed about the wisdom of getting involved, in a presidential election year, in a recall effort that could fail. The state is quite evenly divided between the Tea Party-style Republicans who now control the legislature, and the Democrats who oppose them, and it’s in play in the contest between President Barack Obama and his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney.

Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week noted the president’s absence in the recall fight, and, only last week, Wisconsin Democrats were begging the Democratic National Committee for help, to no avail. But now, writes Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post, the Democrats’ internal polling is showing that Walker’s Democratic challenger, former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, could actually win this thing:

The Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race is now a dead heat as voters have learned more about the corruption probe surrounding Gov. Scott Walker (R), according to a new internal poll for the campaign of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D).

In a survey of 935 likely recall voters, conducted by the Garin Hart Yang Research Group from May 22 to 24, Walker led Barrett by 49.89 to 48.62 percent. With the poll’s margin of error at plus or minus 3.3 percent, that means the race is essentially tied.

Perhaps those numbers have something to do with why, at long last, this week the DNC sent out a nationally distributed fundraising letter on Walker’s Barrett’s behalf.

Although last night’s gubernatorial debate between Walker and Barrett featured some sharp exchanges, it’s worth noting, as the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz did, that Walker did concede that the tactics he used in ramming through his anti-labor law may not have been, well, the smartest:

Though Walker offered no apologies for the reforms he pushed through, which led to huge protests on the state Capitol grounds and a walkout among Democratic legislators, the governor acknowledged anew that he regretted the way he had gone about making the changes.

“Looking back, without a doubt I’d change how we did things,” he said. He added that Wisconsin voters “like the results but they just wish we’d done it differently.”

And, in case you missed it, Walker isn’t the only Wisconsin Republican facing a recall vote on June 5; Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is also facing recall, but her chances of prevailing against challenger Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, look better than Walker’s prospects, meaning that Wisconsin could wind up with a governor and lieutenant governor of differing parties, which is not customary in the Dairy State.

But, more importantly, Democrats have a chance to win back control of the state Senate, which, if Walker should survive the election, would serve as a substantial check on his power.

Robin Bravender has tells that story at Politico.