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Posted at 12:56 PM ET, 11/08/2011

Labor bets it all on Ohio

In case you need another sign of just how big a deal a win in Ohio would be for labor today, an AFL-CIO official sends over some statistics tallying up just how massive the union federation’s ground game has been in this fight:

* 4.1 million worksite fliers

* Over 3,000 worksites leafletted

* 1,101,751 doors knocked

* 825,000 pieces of local union mail

* 409,318 tele-town hall participants.

And that’s not even including today’s get-out-the-vote activities.

Those are striking numbers, and coming on top of at least $24 million raised by unions in this fight, they’re a reminder that if labor wins today it will be as much a result of the amount of work unions poured into this fight as it is a reflection of anything else.

After all, labor really needs to win this one, in order to reverse the conservative narrative, which holds that the failure to take back the state senate in Wisconsin suggested that GOP governors aren’t paying any significant political price for taking the plunge and implementing unpopular anti-labor politics.

In this case, labor seems to be proving that there is sometimes a serious political price to be paid for this type of overreach. The recent Quinnipiac poll found that Ohio voters now disapprove of Governor John Kasich’s performance by 52-36, a sizable swing from September. What’s more, labor’s success at focusing this fight on cops and firefighters — who were exempt from Scott Walker’s anti-union policies in Wisconsin — has helped divide Ohio Republicans, with a third of them now opposing Kasich’s law rolling back bargaining rights.

As significant as a victory today would be, it’s probably more accurate to see it as triage — as limiting ongoing damage to organized labor — than as a sign of a turnaround. As Jefferson Cowie notes in a good big picture piece today, unions still have a good deal of work cut out for them when it comes to reversing decades of conservative messaging and political gains. And while it’s tempting to see the Ohio victory as another sign of a national populist resurgence that’s reflected in the Occupy Wall Street protests and the renewed focus on inequality, the jury is still very much out on whether labor and Dems can succeed in harnassing this new populist energy to a broader working class constituency.

But still, if labor wins today, it will hopefully send an important message about the national mood heading into 2012. It will perhaps clarify that voters want genuine shared sacrifice, not the brand of right-wing fiscal hawkery that’s better understood as thinly disguised class warfare from the top down, and that they’re beginning to see through Tea Party economics. A win would certainly be something to savor — and perhaps something to build upon.

By  |  12:56 PM ET, 11/08/2011

 
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