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Wisconsin recall: Union voters ≠ union households

at 06:30 AM ET, 06/06/2012

Voters from union households turned out in droves for Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin in an unsuccessful attempt to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker (R).

But the strength of the union vote was limited, perhaps decisively, by a divide between union members and those who simply live in union households.


Many of the protesters were members of unions whose power to negotiate contract benefits would be affected.

Exit polls show union voters supported Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) by a 71 to 29 percent margin over Walker. But voters who live with a union member — but are not themselves card-carrying members — supported Barrett by a much narrower margin: 51 percent to 48 percent. Walker won voters with no such union ties by about 20 points.

All told, voters who live in union households made up 33 percent of recall voters — the most in any presidential or gubernatorial election dating back to 2004. Union members themselves, though, accounted for 17 percent of voters, while those living with a union member made up 15 percent.

That suggests that Democratic and labor efforts to turn out their supporters (which is labor’s calling card) were largely successful. The problem was that too many of those who came out sided with Walker, whose recall was initiated after a controversial gambit to strip public-sector unions of collective bargaining rights.

The fact that Walker still won nearly half of the vote from those close to union members suggests the backlash against him was limited to the Democratic base and those directly affected by his decision, while Walker was able to garner plenty of support from everybody else — including family of union members.

The divide within union households is significantly larger in Wisconsin’s recall election than in the 2008 presidential election. In that race, President Obama won 64 percent of union members and 57 percent of their non-member housemates. (Comparisons are not available for 2010, as the exit poll only asked about union household membership.)

The lesson: polls must be parsed carefully. Early in the night, the increased turnout from union households was seen as a potential game-changer for Barrett.

By the end of the night, it became clear that Walker’s victory came in large part thanks to people who were close to the same union members who derided Walker’s governance.

Clinton causes Obama another headache: Bill Clinton is flying solo again.

The former president, a week after undercutting Obama’s campaign by calling Romney a “stellar” businessman, is now distancing himself from Obama’s economic proposals.

In an interview with CNBC, Clinton said he favors a temporary extension of all current tax cuts — including, presumably, the Bush tax cuts that Obama has spent the better part of the year railing against.

“What I think they should do is find a way to keep the expansion going,” Clinton said. “What I think we need to do is to find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now.”

After the interview began making waves, Clinton’s office for the second time this week walked back his comments.

“First, on extending the Bush tax cuts, as President Clinton has said many times before, he supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again,” Clinton’s spokesman, Matt McKenna, said in a statement. “In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election.”

60 Plus goes up with ad in Florida, Ohio: The conservative retiree group 60 Plus is going up with a $2 million-plus ad buy in two key swing states against Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

The new ads hit Brown and Nelson for voting for the stimulus package Obama’s health care bill, making the case that they have done nothing to help the nation’s economy. (Here's the Florida ad.)

The Ohio ad has $1 million behind it and will run for one week. The Florida ad will be up for two weeks, at a cost of $1.1 million.

Fixbits:

Romney’s personal e-mail appears to have been hacked.

Ann Romney quotes Bill Clinton calling her husband a “stellar” businessman.

The Nevada Republican Party’s story just keeps getting weirder, after it was revealed the new political director it announced had never actually been hired.

Arizona Democratic Senate candidate Richard Carmona distances himself from Obama.

Must-reads:

Wisconsin: canary or coal mine?” — Reid Wilson, National Journal

Romney courts Latino voters in Texas” — Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

New map, new rules shake up California primaries” — Paul Kane, Washington Post

 
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