With Republicans having won a clear victory in Wisconsin the question must be asked whether this victory puts the state on the presidential map as a swing state? Both Republican and Democratic analysts are weary of reading to much into the results. One thing is clear however. The power of big labor has effectively been checked and for the budget and taxpayers of Wisconsin that is a good thing.
As expected in the recall the political polarization witnessed over the last year manifested itself at the polls. This is to say that few Barrett voters backed Walker this go around and ditto for Walker supporters supporting Barrett. Interestingly enough the exit polls (which were obviously not accurate in the end) showed that Obama held a nine point lead in the state over Romney. For Republicans this could be a red flag but for the fact the same exit poll said the recall race was deadlocked at 50% among participating voters in the exit poll.
Walker’s performance across the state has to hearten the Romney camp. In the same places Romney performed well in the GOP primary Walker crushed Barrett. The unions and Democrats vaunted ground game fizzled against the right’s massive ad buys and the ground game of Walker’s camp and Tea Party affiliated groups.
But whether the electorate looks like this in November 2012 is impossible to say. The unique dynamics that drove the recall result will not be in play in 2012. Voters who have may not liked Walker but voted for him in the end because they disagreed with the recall will not vote on those reasons. Republicans who seemed dedicated, life or death, to protect Scott Walker are unlikely to feel the same way to Romney. Democrats will not have the same lightening rod in Walker to come out and vote against.
Republicans come out of the recall the clear winners however. They protected Scott Walker and most of all showed the political power of unions has definitely slipped since 2008. Union power has been sliding since the budget crunches states found themselves in since 2009. Unions were already under attack from Democratic and GOP governors before 2010. It is simply that after 2010 GOP Governors, predominantly in the Midwest, decide to curb their power significantly.
Walker’s reforms in Wisconsin were not the only ones undertaken. In Michigan, GOP Governor Rick Snyder implemented reforms that irk many union members. In Ohio John Kasich tried an extended version of Scott Walker’s CBA reform but saw it beaten back in 2011. Earlier this year Indiana took the biggest step and became a right to work state. Unions have inevitably felt squeezed and focused almost exclusively on WI to show they still had political power.
Yet consistently in WI that power has yet to materialize. Instead they have spent millions in Wisconsin, millions more in MI and Indiana to no avail. There was talk of recalling GOP Governor Rick Snyder but after Wisconsin that plan is sure to die. Democrats only consolation in WI is they appeared to have flipped the state senate. Never mind the legislature is adjourned until the 2012 elections and redistricting by the GOP has entrenched their house majority, plus is likely to easily put them back in control of the senate.
Obama wisely stayed away from the Wisconsin recall. But that is a double-edged sword. Pundits and analysts cannot say the president made a mistake going to WI but at the same time the Democratic base in the state has been handed a third defeat in less then a year. That has to have an effect and some Democrats are reflecting bitterness at the president and national Democrats not helping them out more.
Meanwhile Romney will be able to piggyback off the Walker and Tea Party affiliated groups ground games. Walker opened more then 30 offices in the state for the recall, many old offices from 2010, and Romney is sure to use those resources.
Both sides were able to update their voter registrations and databases. But Romney’s camp has to be heartened by the fact independents still went for Walker by a nine point margin in exit polls. And the fact that labor’s political power seems to be on the wane has to be a boon to the GOP as well.
Even so there are enough unknowns from this race and pros and cons for both sides it is unclear whether one side now has an edge in the state going into 2012. Wisconsin has been dubbed one of the state in the Democrats “Blue firewall” but the state has had a recent history, minus 2008, of being extremely close.
The results do show that the Wisconsin electorate is deeply divided and that is likely to last into 2012. The presidential race is sure to have different dynamics then the recall and the electorate is likely to be slightly different then Tuesday’s. Still, one cannot shake the feeling that Wisconsin going forward will be another presidential battleground. If so, it will get to join the ranks of Midwestern states such as Iowa, Michigan and Ohio in calling itself a battleground state.