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Thursday, May 10, 2012

In Recall Race, Wisconsinites Just Want to Win

Wisconsin recall
A lot of the commentary on the Wisconsin recall primary seems to be leading to a consensus; that this was a big loss for unions. "It was a very bad night for WEAC and AFSCME," Mark Graul, a GOP political consultant, said. "When a union-backed candidate loses by 20 points in a Democratic primary, you have to question what sway the unions now have, not only in politics, but with their own members."

And other, less partisan observers agree. That Tom Barrett, who didn't have major backing from labor, so soundly beat Kathleen Falk, who did, shows that labor's backing didn't have a lot of influence on voters. Or, if it did, that influence wasn't positive. "This was a major overreach by unions and, frankly, it makes organized labor as a political force look almost like an empty suit," said UW political scientist Mordecai Lee.

I think this overlooks what has become sort of a theme in this recall cycle -- money and ads don't really matter. For example, a recent Gannett investigation found that 78% of all political ad spending in Wisconsin this season has benefited Republicans, yet all this spending has had zero effect on polling numbers. Walker's numbers haven't budged. One explanation (the one I subscribe to) is that the state is so polarized that changing minds is a lost cause -- and that everyone's mind is made up. There are almost no undecideds. The fact that Walker's ad spending hasn't bumped up the needle suggests he may have reached a very uncomfortable ceiling of less than 50%. Or worse, his numbers seem to be declining.


John Nichols spells out the relation between ad spending and Walker's numbers:

What did $21 million in spending by the governor and millions more by his allies get Walker? According to the new Marquette University Law School Poll (which usually skews a bit conservative), Walker's approval ratings have ticked steadily downward as he recall has developed:

-- In January, he was at 51 percent

-- In March, he was at 50 percent.

-- In May, he was at 47 percent.

The Marquette polling also suggests a clear trend toward the Democrats -- particularly Tom Barrett -- who now leads the governor by a narrow 47-46 margin among registered voters.

Which also goes toward explaining why people chose Barrett over Falk. Polling shows Barrett winning, the same couldn't be said of Falk. Union spending didn't have anything to do with it, for the same reason that Walker's and his Super PAC buddies' money is being wasted -- on the left, everyone just wants to be rid of Walker.

We didn't vote for Barrett because we're against unions. That's silly. If we were against unions, we'd be for Walker, not the candidate most likely to defeat him. We voted for Barrett because we're against Walker.

And we didn't vote for Falk for the same reason. She's a fine Democrat and would've made a good governor, but winning is the only thing.


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