PI Original Aricka Flowers Wednesday June 6th, 2012, 2:48pm

The Bigger Picture Emerging From The Wisconsin Vote

One day after Wisconsin voters elected to keep Republican Gov. Scott Walker in office, making him the first governor in history to survive a recall election, politicos, the media and news junkies are all trying to discern what the end result means for November.

One day after Wisconsin voters elected to keep Republican Gov. Scott Walker in office, making him the first governor in history to survive a recall election, politicos, the media and news junkies are all trying to discern what the end result means for November.

Buoyant Republicans are touting the win as indicative of things to come in November and see the vote as proof positive that Walker's ultra-conservative politics are exactly what the American people desire. "Tonight, we tell our country and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions," a jubilant Walker told his supporters last night. Meanwhile, Democrats are trumpeting their apparent take back of the state Senate and exit polls that show President Obama easily beating Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential race, 51 percent to 44 percent.

But what does it all really mean in the long run? We might have to follow the money to find out.

Money played a massive role in the recall race, with Walker outspending his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, about 7 and-a-half to 1, according to MSNBC. In fact, it was the most expensive race in Wisconsin history with $63.5 million being spent in the recall election, compared to $37.4 million in the 2010 governor's race — which was also between between Walker and Barrett. Some sources, like the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, say the amount spent on the recall could reach as high as $80 million after all is said and done.

According to MSNBC, Walker spent about $45 million to keep his job, with $29 million being spent by his campaign and $16 million being spent by outside groups (including $6 million from the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity). Barrett, on the other hand, spent just $9 million, with $3 million coming from his campaign and $6 million from outside sources.

“In the end, money is pretty formidable,” AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer told Politico last night after the results came in. Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina echoed the damaging influence of outside money in the recall election, reportedly calling it a "terrifying experiment."

"This result is direct confirmation that all the outside money that's poured into elections this cycle can and will change their outcome," he added in a message to Obama supporters. "And it's exactly what could happen on the national stage unless we can close the gap between special interests and ordinary people."

With estimates reaching almost $30 million in outside spending on the race, with the bulk coming from conservative groups, the major influence of money in the Wisconsin recall election serves as a glimpse into the future impact the Citizens United decision and, consequentially, outside money could have on upcoming elections. "Citizens United has ushered in a new era of elections, and it's not a pretty picture," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The millions spent by conservatives helped fund a massive ad campaign that many argue aided Walker in his win against Barrett. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) says its imperative that Democrats get in on the ad campaign strategy if they want to have a fighting chance against the influence of big money from conservative interests. Here's part of a statement U.S. Rep. Israel released today on the issue:

The Wisconsin results should serve as a wake-up call for Democrats: on the ground organizing is critically important, but it must be coupled with an aggressive air campaign.

I’ve long said that Republicans didn’t beat Democrats in 2010, Karl Rove and Koch brothers did after the Citizens United decision. Democratic allies and donors should not allow that to happen again this cycle. Democratic groups won’t outspend Republican groups, but they can keep us in the fight.

The election is about who you are for—big corporations, Big Oil, and millionaires or the middle class. Without robust air cover, the voice of the middle class will be silenced.

The Presidential Impact

Voter turnout was extremely high in the hotly contested recall election, with about 2.5 million, or about 65 percent, of registered voters taking part in the electoral process — which is much more than the 49 percent of voters who turned out in 2010. In exit polling, 17 percent of the 53 percent of voters who opted for Walker favor President Obama in the presidential race, meaning some 9 percent to 10 percent of the voters support both Obama and Gov. Walker.

Nonetheless, Romney is riding the coattails of Walker's win. "Tonight's results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin," Romney said in written statement last night. If Romney were to win Wisconsin, he would be the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since 1984. The Obama campaign had this to say about about the Wisconsin recall election results via Tripp Wellde, Wisconsin state director for Obama for America:

While tonight’s outcome was not what we had hoped for – no one can dispute the strong message sent to Governor Walker. Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites from all walks of life took a stand against the politics of division and against the flood of secret and corporate money spent on behalf of Scott Walker, which amounted to a massive spending gap of more than $31 million to $4 million.

It is a testament to all of those individuals who talked to their friends, neighbors, and colleagues about the stakes in this election of how close this contest was. The power of Wisconsin’s progressive, grassroots tradition was clearly on display throughout the run up to this election and we will continue to work together to ensure a brighter future for Wisconsin’s middle class. This vision was shared by the voters tonight, as exit polling showed President Obama beating Mitt Romney 52-43, a 9-point difference.

On the questions of who would do a better job on the economy and who would help the middle class the most, President Obama again held a strong advantage over Romney. These data points clearly demonstrate a very steep pathway for Mitt Romney to recover in the state.

"There's not a lot of vulnerability here for President Obama," agrees Democratic pollster Mark Mellman in USA Today. "The same exit polls that had (Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom) Barrett losing by six points show Obama ahead of Romney by similar margins."

If anything, the Wisconsin recall was more insightful for the presidential race than impacting in that it revealed President Obama's real opponent in November — money from conservative sources.

"This kind of corporate and special-interest spending is exactly what we could be up against this fall," Messina wrote in an email to Obama supporters. "Outside groups have already poured $75 million into ads attacking the President in key states -- and they've pledged to spend an unprecedented $1 billion."

The Impact On Wisconsin & Labor

What began as a battle against Walker's anti-union policies, which all but stripped away thousands of union workers' collective bargaining rights, became more of a referendum on which of the candidates could do more for the economy. Meanwhile, more union households voted yesterday when compared to 2010, but Democrats were unable to get those households to vote for Barrett, according to the Washington Post's Dan Balz, who broke down the numbers on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports this morning.

According to Balz, the percentage of union voters for Walker and Barrett in the recall election was pretty much identical to those in their 2010 battle for the governor's post. "If there was a break down, it was on labor's ability to persuade people of the message to vote against Walker, as opposed to simply turning out voters," observed Balz.

But labor says the Walker win is not the end of labor's political fight.

"This isn't the crystal ball that predicts the future," said Trumka earlier today. "This is a very unique circumstance. It's a recall election. It's only been done twice in history ... our ground game is going to continue on. It will not end on election day."

One positive for Democrats in yesterday's recall race is the win by former state Sen. John Lehman over State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), who beat the then-incumbent Democrat for the seat back in 2010. The victory leads to a shift in power that will have Democrats in control of the state Senate. The win may not have much of a legislative impact though, according to the Washington Post, as the legislature is out of session until November, when 16 of the 33 state senate seats will be up for election with the Republicans having recently redrawn the districts.

Image: AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Craig Schreiner


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the bigger picture, what "Really" happened, is that our fringe left is out of touch with the DEM party and the rest of the country. That IS the news; however, they don't seem to read signs too well. Maybe a bit too arrogant still? The Dem Party won Wisconsin the last two national elections, but lost this!!!!!...Hmmmmm. what is the real story? You are out of touch; get a clue! Change of leadership. Stop the incoherent class warfare rants