Wisconsin Recall: Pricey Partisan Showdown

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Today marks a hugely important election in Wisconsin. Democrats within the state hope to recall the current Governor, Republican Scott Walker, replacing him with Milwaukee Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett. As the Wisconsin recall has loomed closer, many facets within the media have called it the second most important election of 2012 after the presidential election.

A win for Tom Barrett today would mean a noteworthy success for Wisconsin public employee unions who pushed hard for the recall, and significantly aided in gathering nearly 1 million signatures, far more than the number required. Likewise, a loss for Democrats will deal a significant blow to the labor movement, and would propel Wisconsin into becoming a key battleground state in the November election.

The final poll within the state shows a close race, with Walker leading Barrett by just 3 points. Among independent voters Barrett leads Walker in the last poll by a 48 to 46 margin. With such a close race, the outcome today will be decided by voter turnout more than any other factor. A Marquette Law School Poll suggests that Republicans are overall more motivated to vote in today’s election than Democrats. The poll, from late May, found that 92% of Republicans said they were “absolutely certain to vote” while only 77% of Democrats said the same.

Many agree that the result of today’s recall in Wisconsin will suggest which way the state will vote in November. President Obama won Wisconsin by nearly 14 percentage points in 2008. This presidential election season, with each candidate lobbying tirelessly for the 270 electoral votes needed, a win for Democrats in Wisconsin will likely mean a win in the state for President Obama. Democrats have won the state in every election since 1988, although the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were very close.

This race has been the most expensive in state history. There has been a reported $63.5 million of political spending from candidates and independent groups, with much of the money coming from out-of-state. The previous record was set in 2010, and was much lower at $37.4 million spent on political campaigning.

If Walker wins today, he will be the first U.S. Governor in history to deflect a recall election. Whatever the outcome of today’s Wisconsin recall, it will undoubtedly serve as a preview of what to expect from the state in November.