Wisconsin Dems, Labor Poised for a Loss on Walker Recall

Syndicated

On the day of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's tight recall election, Democrats and union opponents watch poised for a loss.

Talks of a recount swirl despite Walker's polling showing he hasn't broken through the 50 percent threshold. However, he's fairing better than Democrat Tom Barrett who hasn't polled higher than roughly 45 percent since April.

Walker's not the only one facing recall. His lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, and three Republican state senators also face the gallows.

What's not lacking in this race on either side: enthusiasm.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board projects as much as a 65 percent voter turnout - an astonishingly high number in a June setting.

Unsurprisingly the Republicans hold the advantage, which accounts some for Barrett hitting a low ceiling early.

But more than pure statistics, Republicans and Walker hold more cards due to the reason behind the recall - union busting.

In just a short year and a half in office, he's caught national attention for successfully pushing through his union rights proposal, which also required most state workers pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.

Democrats and labor leaders rightly saw the move as a gutting of their power, which for too long has wagged the dog.

Reformers and union sympathizers nationwide now watch the race looking to see which side voters fall on.

A recall of Walker in favor of the Milwaukee mayor, who he beat in 2010 by 5 points, could mean union power remains strong. The opposite would signal a dying way of doing business, a full-on referendum on unions.

These two quotes sum up the opposing views of Wisconsinites on the recall:

"Walker has divided this state so much — I know individual families who are divided," said Debra Kosloske, a union member and Barrett supporter. "Brothers and sisters won't talk to each other."

"We're moving in the right direction, and this recall is nothing more than unions grasping for the last vestige of power they can hold," said Dennis Clinard, a small business owner from western Wisconsin who's supporting Walker. "This recall's not about our state or economy; it's about a union power grab."

Looked at as a microcosm, what could this outcome mean nationwide?

In San Diego, a mayoral candidate on today's ballot said he hopes to make America's Finest City the "Wisconsin of the West" by passing a pension reform ballot measure.

The quote infuriated local organized labor and became a tagline for opponents who likened that approach as a paralysis of government. That candidate's been leading all the polls and some believe, it's his hardline against unions that makes him appealing.

Walker's war begs an important question: How does a government barely staying afloat negotiate with unions that's fair to both sides?

According to opponents, no such crisis existed and cried foul claiming that Walker dreamed up the notion of a deficit.

Walker's taken as much heat standing his ground against labor as a heavy-duty cooking mitt. If he keeps his seat today, it'll be the first time a U.S. governor fought off recall.

It's clear what's at stake for labor today.

Walker opponents began the recall process as soon as legally possible, collecting 900,000 signatures (360,000 more than required) and putting up Barrett to best the Republican.

But the titanic dollars tip greatly in Walker's favor.

So far, Walker's attracted $31 million from supporters around the country - mostly from out of state and a total of $63 million has been spent on the state so far. Some of the usual suspects include Americans for Prosperity, the National Rifle Association and the Republican Governors Association.

On the Democratic side, unions, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association, put up $14 million. Barrett's donations total $4.2 million.

Interestingly, much of the Republican dollars behind Walker hold double purpose. A loss in Wisconsin over labor strife could hurt presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who doesn't need a handicap in the heartland.

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