CHARLOTTE, N.C. – How critical is the recall election in Wisconsin
for Democrats’ chances in the fall?
“I don’t think that this is anything other than an important election for Wisconsin voters, for Wisconsin working families,” Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told me in an interview here Tuesday afternoon.
Focusing on other races on the ballot, she said the vote is an opportunity for Democrats to take the Senate majority in the state legislature. “We have an effective grassroots organization that has been fully deployed in Wisconsin, and they are engaged in the ground game that this is going to be.”
In the city where Democrats in September will affirm President Barack Obama’s place at the top of the November ticket, Wasserman Schultz was back again after a visit just last week. On Tuesday, she welcomed hundreds of media members making plans for convention coverage while events that could affect the outcome of the November race unfolded In Wisconsin and Washington.
The effort to recall Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was itself “really unprecedented.” she said, “He went after workers and middle class and working families, tried to just completely decimate collective bargaining rights, and more than a million Wisconsin voters put that recall on the ballot because that is not what they expected.”
Tuesday’s race between Walker and his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, may be a rehearsal for the 2012 presidential contest, especially in its bitter partisan tone and the onslaught of televised ads, mainly on behalf of Walker and funded by conservative supporters and organizations.
The president, with the exception of a tweet, has preferred to stay away from the divisive campaign. Still, it’s hard to look past the state’s importance to an Obama win and a battle that has energized both Democratic and Republican grassroots efforts. A Walker win would mean more attention from both parties.
“Wisconsin is definitely a swing state; it’s a battleground state and it will be part of the key,” Wasserman Schultz said. She predicted President Obama will win Wisconsin like he won it in 2008 because he “has taken us in three years from an economy that was hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs a month. … Now we have 27 months of job growth in the private sector, particularly with manufacturing.” Repeating Democrats’ recent messaging, she criticized Mitt Romney’s jobs record as Massachusetts governor.
On the day that the Senate voted not to take up the Paycheck Fairness Act that would strengthen the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Wasserman Schultz also signaled that Democrats aren’t backing off of women rights as a campaign issue, hoping to maintain a gender gap that still favors President Obama but has been narrowing.
Mitt Romney’s promise to get rid of the Affordable Care Act would, she said, “take us back to the time when just being a woman was a pre-existing condition” and she criticized Republicans’ targeting of Planned Parenthood funding. “One in six women gets her primary access to health care from a Planned Parenthood clinic.”
No matter what happens in Wisconsin, in the coming weeks the focus will turn to another swing state, North Carolina, and its 15 electoral votes. “We firmly planted a flag in the south when we selected Charlotte to be our host city for the Democratic National Convention, and that was to clearly send a signal that we weren’t ceding any region of the country,” she said.
“It gives us an opportunity to organize our grassroots operation in and around the convention and leading up to it, and then really use the momentum that President Obama will have coming out of the convention to help propel him to victory in North Carolina as one of the states that will help him get to the 270 votes he’ll need to get re-elected.”
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C., has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3