One of Scott Walker’s primary arguments in the recall battle against Dem opponent Tom Barrett is that as Mayor of Milwaukee, Barrett presided over job losses there that prove he would drag down the economy of the whole state of Wisconsin. He and his national Republican allies have amplified this attack line in ads, and will continue to do so.
But it turns out that back in 2011, when Milwaukee was adding jobs along with the rest of the state, the Walker adminstration took credit for it and chalked it up to his gubernatorial leadership.
Walker is currently up on the air with a spot that shows footage of newscasts proclaming Milwaukee’s economy in dire straights — and blaming it on tax hikes. “Tom Barrett has failed in Milwaukee for eight years,” the ad says. “Don’t let him take Wisconsin backwards.” A recent ad from the Republican Governors Association made a similar point.
But in the first half of 2011, just after Walker took office, Milwaukee was adding jobs, along with the rest of the state — and the Walker administration rushed to take full credit for it.
“With four straight months of job growth in 2011, metro Milwaukee is reaping the economic benefits of Governor Walker’s successful efforts to improve Wisconsin’s business climate, and make job creation a top priority,” blared a Walker administration press release in May of 2011.
In other words, when Milwaukee was adding jobs early in Walker’s term, his policies deserved all the credit. When it began to lose jobs, it was the fault only of his opponent’s policies — even though the rest of the state lost jobs, too.
This goes to the core of what this recall fight will be all about. Though Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at its lowest in four years, Wisconsin has had the worst job growth in the country, at a time when the rest of the country is recovering. Since Walker argued that his controversial policies were necessary to jump-start job growth, his recall election will be largely all about the economy, and Wisconsin’s lag behind the rest of the country. Polls show it’s a top issue for Wisconsin voters.
So one of Walker’s main pushbacks will be to argue that his opponent’s policies — and Milwaukee’s role in dragging down the rest of the state — are what’s really to blame. Dems and labor will counter that Walker was all too happy to take all the credit when Milwaukee was doing well, before his controversial reforms were even law.