The Washington Post:
[Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker made national headlines last year when he eliminated most collective-bargaining rights for public employee unions, triggering huge protests. The fight put friends, neighbors and family members on opposite sides and left the state as polarized as any in the nation. It will culminate in next month’s recall election, only the third for a sitting governor in U.S. history.* Enlace relacionado: Lo que hay en juego en Wisconsin
But there is more at stake on June 5 than the question of whether Walker remains in office or is replaced by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. To Bradtke, saving Walker’s job is a crucial step toward making Wisconsin a competitive battleground in November and electing a Republican president who deals with budgetary issues nationally the way Walker has in Wisconsin.
The recall contest “is the second most important election in the country this year,” he said.
(...) At first blush, Wisconsin may look daunting for Romney. The state has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan three decades ago. But that is a deceptive indicator of the state’s politics overall. Four years ago, Barack Obama coasted to victory here by a margin of 14 points, but George W. Bush nearly won the state in 2000 and 2004. And Republicans scored major victories in 2010, taking over the governor’s office and a Senate seat.
Karl Rove, Bush’s top political adviser in both those campaigns, argues that the results of Walker’s recall election and the margin of the vote will offer the first genuine clues as to whether Wisconsin’s political environment is similar to four years ago or has reverted to the nail-biter status of 2000 and 2004. “This will give a very clear indication of whether Wisconsin and the industrial Midwest will be up for grabs this year,” Rove said.
Mike Tate, the Wisconsin Democratic chairman, said he remains confident the grass-roots energy that triggered the recall can carry Barrett to victory. But he does not need to wait for the results of the recall election to predict that the state will be a battleground this fall, despite what happened here in 2008.
“I think this is Kerry-Bush Wisconsin ’04,” he said, referring to the presidential contest that ended up with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) winning the state by just two-tenths of a percentage point — 11,000 votes out of 3 million cast.
“This electorate was never as blue as it was in ’08 and never as red as it was in ’10,” Tate added. “Those were dynamic swings that were subject to national momentum. This is now and I think will remain a state that is very, very closely divided.”
(...) Republicans have treated the recall election as if it were part of its national effort in 2012. The Republican Governors Association has spent more than $8 million since March. Walker has been or will be joined on the campaign trail by a string of fellow governors, including Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, the association’s chairman; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the group’s vice chairman; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
The Wisconsin Republican Party, with assistance from the Republican National Committee, has made more than 2.5 million calls identifying voters. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a former Wisconsin Republican chairman, said the party has “done more work in this state than in any state in the country. That’s all going to help us in November.”
The Democratic Governors Association has spent more than $3 million to help Barrett. But in contrast with the GOP effort, the past two weeks have produced grumbling that national Democrats are not doing enough to help defeat Walker. As a result, the Democratic National Committee sent out a fundraising appeal for Barrett and President Obama’s campaign publicly announced that it has invested about $1 million in its grass-roots organization in the state that can be tapped for Barrett on June 5.
Tate argued that the race will turn on who can get their voters to the polls in a state where undecided voters are only a tiny percentage of the electorate. If Barrett was to win, it would be a significant blow to the GOP. But Democrats recognize the implications for November of a clear win for Walker.
Many national Democrats, including some Obama advisers and some national union officials, were unenthusiastic about trying to recall Walker this year. They saw Walker as weakened by the political turbulence he touched off and therefore someone who would be vulnerable in a 2014 reelection campaign. They also worried that a recall campaign five months before the November election would be a hugely costly undertaking. They feared that it could leave their forces exhausted and, if Walker were to win, demoralized heading into November.