The long-awaited vote is viewed here as a referendum on Walker’s move to curtail public workers’ collective-bargaining rights and a harbinger of whether Republicans have a shot at winning Wisconsin this fall for the first time since 1984.
But the contest also will be an early test of a dynamic that both parties expect to play out in a dozen or so battleground states in November: the effectiveness of the Democrats’ ground organization against the expected advantage Republicans will have in fundraising and on TV.
The importance of on-the-ground organizing for President Obama’s reelection effort was made clear Monday in a Web video released to supporters.
“You know what really matters in a really close election? The unprecedented grass-roots organizing we’re doing every day in states across the country,” campaign manager Jim Messina said at the outset of a three-minute video in which Wisconsin was listed as a toss-up state. “We’re following the strategy we’ve had from day one, and we can’t afford to lose focus on that.”
With Walker holding a more than 7-to-1 advantage in the money race — and with GOP-aligned outside groups far outspending their counterparts — Democrats maintain that their chance at victory depends on a superior get-out-the-vote operation.
Kristen Crowell, executive director of We Are Wisconsin, said in an interview Monday that the labor-backed group is on target to knock on 1.4 million doors and make 1.5 million phone calls. She said the group has about 50,000 volunteers and has spent $2.8 million on its field operation in the past month.
“From day one, there’s been a strong, strong commitment to fund and prioritize the field campaign,” she said.
Over the weekend, Barrett’s camp dispatched more than 10,000 volunteers, who knocked on about 948,000 doors and made nearly 890,000 phone calls. Spokesman Phillip Walzak said those numbers are expected to “more than double” by the time polls close Tuesday night.
Wisconsin officials are predicting a voter turnout of 60 percent to 65 percent — more than in the 2010 midterm election, when turnout was about 50 percent, but less than the 69 percent during the 2008 presidential vote.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, candidates and independent groups have spent more than $63.5 million on the recall effort, making it the state’s most expensive election ever.
A little more than half of that amount — about $34.5 million — has been contributions to the candidates, with Walker taking $30.5 million compared with Barrett’s $4 million.