Politics

05.11.12

Walker's "Divide and Conquer" Wisconsin Strategy

The gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin that will pit GOP Governor Scott Walker against Democratic opponent Tm Barrett (a rematch of the 2010 general) will take place June 5. Today, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel posted some video of Walker talking to a big-money supporter about his "divide and conquer" strategy against the state's public-sector unions. What kind of difference will this video make?

Barrett, of course, was not the preferred candidate of the unions. So the Democratic primary campaign drifted away from the original reason for the recall. But then again, maybe the public-sector unions aren't as important here as liberals outside the state would like to think. From an early May Marquette U. poll:

Democratic primary voters ranked “creating new jobs,” picked by 46 percent, as the most important consideration in their choice of a nominee. Twenty-five percent said “defeating Scott Walker,” while 14 percent said “reducing political divisions in the state.” Twelve percent picked “restoring collective bargaining rights for public employees.”

Thirty-seven percent of Democratic primary voters said they favored a pledge to veto the state budget if it did not restore collective bargaining for state employees, while 48 percent opposed such a pledge. Fifty-two percent said they favored calling a special session of the legislature to restore collective bargaining rights, while 39 percent opposed doing so.

So even Democrats are somewhat ambivalent about the union question. Meanwhile, there is no ambivalence on the GOP side. I spoke with Timothy Dale, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who follows state politics. He said Walker is a rock star to the state's conservatives. "During the recent Republican presidential primary," Dale says, "Walker got larger crowds than Romney."

Dale also says that Walker's money advantage is going to be off the charts--right now, he pegs it at $14 million for Walker to $1 million for Barrett. "By the end of the month, almost every single ad on TV is going to be a Walker ad," says Dale.

That's a tough environment for Barrett. Even so, the polls are close--dead heat-ish, with one from Rasmussen naturally giving Walker an edge. The undecideds are very low--2 to 4 percent. So it's doable. But, as Dale puts it, "In order to beat Walker, the race has to be about more than just collective bargaining." That suggests maybe this video won't make that much difference, or that the Democrats risk overplaying it.

Finally, as I've said many times before, assuming that Walker does hold on and win, be smarter, please, than to read anything into it. In the same Marquette poll, Obama leads Romney by 51-42. That isn't close, folks. Want some perspective? Texas is closer. Wisconsin is not not not in play. Start not believing now the crap you'll read on June 6.