Walker survived. Some Wisconsinites didn’t care much for him but thought he beat Barrett fair and square the first time and therefore the recall election was a waste of time and money. Just about everyone emerged from the process feeling battered and bruised.
“It was very raw for people,” said Kathy Walsh, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who specializes in interviewing voters. “A lot of people had the uncomfortable conversations and don’t want to experience it again.”
‘You don’t know what to do’
The strategy for Democrats is to win big majorities in major cities and try to come close to a draw in the Fox River Valley, which leans slightly Republican. The GOP strongholds are the collar counties of Milwaukee — the western suburbs and exurbs, where McCain clobbered Obama in 2008.
In Washington County, northwest of Milwaukee, Tim Bechwar, 59, sells cheese, sausage and beef jerky at Held’s, a 126-year-old business just off Route 41. He says of the president: “I don’t think he’s done a damn thing. I think the stimulus was a bust, and I think he’s run the deficit up to astronomical proportions.”
Farther up the road, in Fond du Lac, Pete Gust, 60, a union advocate, says the burnout from the Walker recall effort has made it harder to get people to stump for Obama and other Democrats endorsed by unions, saying: “Week after week, e-mail after e-mail, request after request, eventually you got to the point where people who weren’t as deeply committed, they ran out of steam.” He says people tell him, “Don’t got it. Tired. Going hunting. Going fishing.”
In Oshkosh, Debbie Freiberg, 50, a mammography technologist who has worked at Mercy Hospital for 27 years, said she’s a Bush-Obama voter. She’s someone who by age 21 had saved $10,000 so she could someday buy a house. She worries about the government going bankrupt; she worries about people who are on disability when they’re still of working age.
“I want someone who’s for the middle-class people. I’ve worked hard all my life, and I don’t want to see everything taken away from me,” she says. Of the candidates, “You like little things of both of them and you don’t know what to do.”