The outcome of Tuesday’s recall election for Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin could mark a decisive turning point in Mitt Romney’s quest to be president.
The battle between Walker, who led the fight to reduce collective-bargaining rights for government workers, and a heavily financed union presence in Wisconsin, is widely seen as a litmus test for the November general election between Romney and President Barack Obama.
Walker’s battle against the unions made national headlines in 2011 when protests erupted in Madison, and Democratic lawmakers left the state to stall a vote.
A huge amount of money has poured into the Wisconsin recall on both sides since then; an estimated $64 million was spent on the campaign.
Romney surrogates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio actively campaigned with Walker. The GOP and Tea Party supporters have waged a grassroots campaign to save Walker, while the Democrats have depended on unions to wage their own local campaign.
The mass media has also made an issue of President Obama’s absence from the bitter battle in Wisconsin. President Bill Clinton has campaigned in the state, but President Obama has largely avoided the campaign despite his popularity there.
On Tuesday, President Obama did make a call on Twitter for voters in Wisconsin to support Tom Barrett, Walker’s opponent.
Barrett also told CNN on Tuesday that a presidential appearance in Wisconsin would have distracted voters from core issues.
So why is the recall election an important national story?
First, the reports coming out of Wisconsin show a well-organized effort on the GOP side to coordinate its grassroots campaign with a media blitz.
Second, a huge amount of money was spent on attack ads.
Third, Wisconsin is a key in the general election, if it comes into play as a swing state.
At least by one count, from CNN, the presidential election could pivot on just seven swing states. For now, CNN isn’t counting Wisconsin as a swing state.
President Obama needs at least three of the seven to get re-elected, and he could do so without winning Florida and Ohio.
If Wisconsin suddenly goes to the GOP, the swing state math is more problematic: the Obama campaign would need to take Florida, Ohio or Virginia to stay in the race.
Wisconsin also would be a wake up call for the Democrats to re-examine their strategies in swing states, and other states that are considered leaning toward the president.
But Romney should benefit more from a GOP win in the Wisconsin recall, especially if he picks a vice presidential candidate with ties to his party’s fiscally conservative base.
Two such candidates could be from Wisconsin: Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan.
Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of Constitution Daily.
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