Politics 2012: Walker recall vote's importance in the eye of the beholder

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International
Politics 2012: Walker recall vote's importance in the eye of the beholder
Elias Groth displays his political views on his car as he drives by the Government Accountability Board of the State of Wisconsin before United Wisconsin delivers boxes of petitions calling for the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on January 17, 2012 in Madison, Wisconsin. Nearly twice the 540,208 signatures needed to trigger a recall were turned in to the GAB. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

Republican Party leaders say Tuesday's recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker could portend party success in November.

"Certainly [if] Wisconsin goes red, I think it's lights out for Barack Obama," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said last week in commenting about the recall effort against the Republican conservative.


The effort to oust Walker began soon after he pushed through the Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature a law last year that effectively stripped collective bargaining rights from most state workers.

A average of four recent polls indicates Walker holds a 6.6 percentage point lead over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who opposed Walker in the 2012 gubernatorial election.

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One poll, conducted by the Garin Hart Yang Research Group, showed a virtual dead heat, with Walker ahead of Barrett, 49.89 percent to 48.62 percent, with a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points, The Huffington Post reported. A labor-backed survey also indicated a statistical deadlock as well.


In an e-mail addressed to "Friend," Priebus said the recall will "set the tone for the rest of the campaign season. So, if you are tired of waiting on Barack Obama to make good on his promises, then it's time to get involved today!"

RNC aides say 20 field offices will be used through Tuesday to try to retain Walker as governor, then shift focus to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

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"One thing is really clear here, if Walker wins here next Tuesday, which we are very confident he will, Obama is going to have a much tougher road ahead in Wisconsin this fall," Priebus told reporters in a conference call.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who campaigned with Barrett Wednesday, said the party was "putting all of our effort into this fight," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said.

"Scott Walker has worked hard to make sure that people think that he's the rock star of the right-wing Tea Party extremism that the Republican Party has allowed to take them over," Wasserman Schultz said. "And that is not what voters in Wisconsin want to see happen."

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Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, has downplayed the impact the recall election could have on the presidential race.


"This is a gubernatorial race with a guy who was recalled and a challenger trying get him out of office. It has nothing to do with President Obama at the top of the ticket and it certainly doesn't have anything to do with Mitt Romney at the top of the Republican ticket," Cutter told MSNBC. "There may be some that will predict that it means doom for us in Wisconsin in the fall elections, but I think they'll be proven wrong."

Many Democrats, led by organized labor, cast the Wisconsin recall as a referendum on what they consider an overreach of power by Walker, The Washington Post reported. However, some party members have questioned how strategically smart it is to have a recall election almost five months before Obama and Romney duke it out in November.

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Union officials also complained that Washington Democrats haven't done enough to help them defeat the governor, singling out the Democratic National Committee's decision not to give the state party money.

International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger told the Post the DNC has helped on the ground but added that a major cash infusion would have been worth a lot more.


But Democrats said they think if they can keep Walker's margin to low single-digits heading into the vote, they can win it on the ground because of their organizational efforts, the Post said.

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Wisconsin election officials predict 60 percent to 65 percent of the voting-age population -- about 2.6 million to 2.8 million people -- will vote either in person or absentee, The Wisconsin State Journal reported.

If the predicted turnout comes to pass, it would be higher than the 49.7 percent of voters who voted in the November 2010 gubernatorial general election when Walker beat Barrett by about 5 percentage points.

"Wisconsin has never had a statewide recall election, which makes predicting turnout difficult," Kevin Kennedy, Government Accountability Board director and general counsel, told the Journal. "We typically look at history for guidance in predicting turnout."

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