Wisconsin recall: Winners and losers

at 12:27 PM ET, 06/06/2012

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) decisive victory against Democrats seeking to recall him on Tuesday amounts to a major moment in national politics due to the massive amounts of national money and attention the race garnered.


Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker waits in line to vote Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Wauwatosa, Wis. Walker faces Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Any time there are such high stakes in an election, there are people who win big and people who lose big. And we at the Fix love nothing more than sifting through the results to go beyond the obvious “bests” and “worsts” of the night to find a few winners and losers you might not have thought of.

Below is our attempt to do just that. If you have winners and losers of your own from the race that was in Wisconsin, the comments section awaits your thoughts.

WINNERS

* Scott Walker: Walker would have preferred not to have had to fight for his political life 18 months after he first won the governorship. But, fight he did — and did it well. Lost in all of the chatter about Wisconsin is the fact that Walker proved himself as a damn good candidate who successfully turned the debate in the recall from his move to strip public section unions of their collective bargaining rights to one centered on his stewardship of the Wisconsin economy. Walker’s win means that he is guaranteed (or damn close to it) a prominent speaking slot at the Republican National Convention this summer. That will continue to bolster the idea of him as a national candidate — heading into either the 2016 or 2020 election.

* Republican Governors Association: The RGA was in early and often on Wisconsin — grasping quickly just how much a Walker win (or a Walker loss) could impact the national playing field heading into the fall election. The RGA ran its first TV ad in the state on March 23 and spent $9 million total on the race, making it the biggest outside spender in the recall campaign. (Credit also goes to Jon Lerner, who handled polling for the RGA’s Wisconsin efforts, and On Message Inc.— Curt Anderson and Brad Todd — who cut the TV ads.) The RGA placed a huge bet on Wisconsin — and it hit.

* President Obama: Staying away from Wisconsin was, in hindsight, the right move for the President. Walker’s seven point margin over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proved that the race was too far gone for a last-minute presidential visit to matter. (This one had LOTS of echoes of the 2010 special Senate election in Massachusetts.) The exit polls also had some good news for Obama: Despite Walker’s win, the electorate favored the incumbent over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney by seven points.

* Reince Priebus: The RNC Chairman touts his Wisconsin roots — he was the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican party prior to being elected to the top job at the national party — at every chance he gets. Given that, had Walker lost it would have been a black-eye for Priebus. Talk to any political person in Wisconsin and they will tell you that Republicans were markedly more unified and coordinated than Democrats. That’s to Priebus’ credit.

* Wisconsin: Voters of the state — no matter which side of the recall fight they were on — have to feel some sense of relief today now that the entire thing is behind them. The state has essentially been in campaign mode continuously since the 2010 election and, as we have written, the recall fight turned personal (and not in a good way) for many people in the state. Moving on — no matter the outcome — might be the best possible thing for most Wisconsinites.

* Real Clear Politics : The Fix has long touted this political site as a must-bookmark for junkies. And RCP proved its worth again last night. Its poll of polls had Walker up 6.7 percent over Barrett. Walker won by 6.9 percent. That’s damn close.

LOSERS

* Organized labor: There is simply no way to spin this in a way that looks good for unions — though that doesn’t mean they won’t try. Labor was the catalyst of the Walker recall effort and throughout the process cast it as the re-awakening of a political giant. They pursued the recall against the wishes of many Washington Democrats who thought that the best course of action was to wait until 2014 when Walker was set to stand for re-election And, although labor households represented an increased share of the recall electorate as compared to past elections in Wisconsin, Walker managed to expand his margin from 2010. (And did we mention that labor dumped a bunch of money into a losing Democratic primary fight against Walker roughly a month before the recall? Yeah, so that happened.) Coming on the heels of a high profile loss in a 2010 Arkansas Democratic Senate primary and the failed attempt to retake the Wisconsin state Senate in 2011, labor’s influence looks badly reduced heading into the fall election.

* President Obama: Yes, you can be a “winner” and a “loser” in the Fix’s judgment. (Fix Mom always told me I was a winner; kids at school disagreed with that assessment.) Walker’s win in Wisconsin will undoubtedly embolden the conservative forces — both in the state and nationally — to push even harder to unseat President Obama this fall. There’s nothing like winning a hotly-contested and nasty race to drive enthusiasm in a party’s activist and donor base. And, rightly or wrongly, many Republicans will believe that they now have a blueprint of how to turn out their votes in a swing state and beat back Democrats’ best efforts.

* Tom Barrett: Even in a race this polarized, candidates do matter. Walker was a very good one, Barrett was, well, not. He was entirely adequate but as a former member of Congress who had run and lost two previous gubernatorial races, he was far from the ideal contrast to Walker. In picking Barrett, Democrats also affirmed the message to some independents that this recall was an entirely politically motivated attempt by the party to reverse an election result they didn’t like. That, of course, isn’t Barrett’s fault but it all amounts to the same thing: We’ve almost certainly heard the last of him as a statewide candidate.

* Early exit polls: When Wisconsin polls closed at 9 p.m. eastern time, it was widely reported that the Walker-Barrett race was a toss up. Obviously, it didn’t wind up that way. While, as Post pollster Jon Cohen expertly explained in a Fix post this morning, there are reason for the initial inaccuracy of exit polls, the events of last night will bring even more skepticism down on them. Which, actually, may wind up being a good thing if news organizations (and the people to whom they leak the numbers) take them less as a written-in-stone result than as an early — and imperfect — indicator.

* Oreos: The Fix, as regular readers and Twitter followers know, is an avid consumer of Oreos on election nights. Just as we were gearing up to try to set a personal eating record, the race went from nip and tuck to a clear Walker win — thus depriving us (and milk’s favorite cookie) of an opportunity make a little history.

Read more on PostPolitics:

Can Romney do what Walker did in Wisconsin?

The Fix: What happened with the Wisconsin exit polling?

Recall is over, but deep divisions remain

By the numbers: Walker spent at least $29 million; Barret spent at least $4 million

 
Read what others are saying