Walker enjoys a huge financial advantage over Barrett. As of the beginning of May, Walker had raised $25 million, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks campaign finances. Much of Walker’s money was raised in sizable contributions beyond those normally allowed, because of differences in state laws concerning recall elections. He had spent about $20 million of that.
Republicans have treated the recall election as if it were part of its national effort in 2012. The Republican Governors Association has spent more than $8 million since March. Walker has been or will be joined on the campaign trail by a string of fellow governors, including Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, the association’s chairman; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the group’s vice chairman; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
The Wisconsin Republican Party, with assistance from the Republican National Committee, has made more than 2.5 million calls identifying voters. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a former Wisconsin Republican chairman, said the party has “done more work in this state than in any state in the country. That’s all going to help us in November.”
The Democratic Governors Association has spent more than $3 million to help Barrett. But in contrast with the GOP effort, the past two weeks have produced grumbling that national Democrats are not doing enough to help defeat Walker. As a result, the Democratic National Committee sent out a fundraising appeal for Barrett and President Obama’s campaign publicly announced that it has invested about $1 million in its grass-roots organization in the state that can be tapped for Barrett on June 5.
Tate argued that the race will turn on who can get their voters to the polls in a state where undecided voters are only a tiny percentage of the electorate. If Barrett was to win, it would be a significant blow to the GOP. But Democrats recognize the implications for November of a clear win for Walker.
Recall risks for Democrats
Many national Democrats, including some Obama advisers and some national union officials, were unenthusiastic about trying to recall Walker this year. They saw Walker as weakened by the political turbulence he touched off and therefore someone who would be vulnerable in a 2014 reelection campaign. They also worried that a recall campaign five months before the November election would be a hugely costly undertaking. They feared that it could leave their forces exhausted and, if Walker were to win, demoralized heading into November.