Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may be a controversial figure, but all signs point to him winning today’s recall election.
Even though Walker, probably the ballsiest Republican governor currently in office, stripped unionized workers of their collective bargaining powers (this is awesome or terrible depending on your political persuasion) and made pretty drastic cuts in order to curb the state’s deficit (something pretty difficult for many in the state to swallow), polls indicate that he’ll probably keep his seat.
According to Real Clear Politics, Walker currently leads his Democratic opponent, Milwauki Mayor Tom Barrett, in the polls by an average of 6.7 percent. That approval has been ticking up steadily since mid-May, as you can see here:
Walker’s approval rating is also on the up – by a lot. Reason does a really good job of outlining the differences between just a few months ago and now. 51 to 47 percent of people now approve of Walker’s job performance, up from a 57 percent disapproval rating last year, and now 50 percent approve of Wisconsin’s direction compared to the 62 percent that disapproved last year.
So while public sector employees and unionized workers might still be fuming, it seems that anger towards Walker’s policies has drastically cooled.
Republicans have also had the upper hand in this recall. Walker has benefitted from a constant stream of dollars from the national Republican Party, and a completely unified Republican front. Democrats, on the other hand, have been less unified behind Barrett (he wasn’t labor’s choice candidate), and the split between unionized Democrats and traditional Democrats has been palpable.
While its almost cliché to say – I take that back, it’s totally cliché – the eventual result will come down to the nitty-gritty turnout numbers. In 2008, Democrats in Wisconsin showed up in overwhelming numbers and helped Obama sweep the state like a Swiffer on a dirty floor. If, and I say if with absolute hesitation, Democrats can reproduce those numbers, Barrett may stand a chance after all.
Fortunately or unfortunately, it doesn’t look like all Democrats are as jazzed about the election as the ones that rallied in record numbers at the start of Walker’s governorship. So, it looks like Walker will walk away with the recall (see what I did there?).
These numbers also mean that this recall is hardly an indicator of how 2012 will go. First of all, Scott Walker has always had an up on Barrett, so using this as a bellwether for November is, at the very least, unfair. Current predictions indicate that Walker is outspending Barrett by 8 to 1. Much of this money is coming from out of state, a fact many are using to justify the bellwether label, but that’s more about big players hating unions than about Republican and Democratic squabbles that would be an indicator of national sentiment.
Also, 2012 is essentially already called in Wisconsin. The state has long favored Democrats in presidential elections — a Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984. This year, virtually every poll has Obama leading Romney, and there is no doubt in my mind Obama will win the state come November.
So, take the recall for what it is: A recall. …A recall that Walker will probably win, and which everyone will forget about in just a few weeks. I’m not saying its not a big deal, because it definitely is, but just because it’s the most exciting thing going on right now doesn’t make it of overwhelming national importance.