My pick for read of the morning is E.J. Dionne’s explanation of what’s really at stake in the Wisconsin recall fight, and why the drive to recall Scott Walker represents a legitimate response to broader aspects of the national conservative movement:

Walker is being challenged not because he pursued conservative policies but because Wisconsin has become the most glaring example of a new and genuinely alarming approach to politics on the right. It seeks to use incumbency to alter the rules and tilt the legal and electoral playing field decisively toward the interests of those in power...

The attack on unions was carried out in the name of saving state and local government money. But there is a big difference between, on the one hand, bargaining hard with the unions and demanding more reasonable pension agreements, and, on the other, trying to undercut the labor movement altogether...

The paradox of Wisconsin is that, although recalling a governor would be unusual, Barrett is the candidate of regular order, of consensual politics, Wisconsin-style. Wisconsin has had successful conservative governors before, Republican Tommy Thompson prominent among them. They enacted conservative policies without turning the state upside down. They sought to win over their opponents rather than to inhibit their capacity to oppose...

This recall should not have had to happen. But its root cause was not the orneriness of Walker’s opponents but a polarizing brand of conservative politics that most Americans, including many conservatives, have good reason to reject.

I’ve been having an extended email argument with a pro-Walker voter in Wisconsin who is extolling Walker’s reforms while also lamenting how “polarized” politics has become. But is there any doubt that Walker is the primary cause of the state’s polarization, and, as E.J. notes, that he represents a larger break from consensual politics that is symptomatic of the GOP’s larger lurch to the right?

Again: Unions agreed to the fiscal concessions Walker demanded, and in return, asked that Walker not take away their bargaining rights in an effort to destroy them completely. Walker refused, even though majorities of Wisconsinites opposed eliminating those rights. In other words, unions offered a compromise — and by the way, leaders like Mike Bloomberg see public unions as sometime partners in solving the fiscal problems of municipalities — but Walker insisted on their total capitulation. That’s what triggered the original protests, and the chaos that followed. Walker himself has since admitted he never campaigned on the radical idea of rolling back bargaining rights, and it has now emerged that Walker saw the rollback as only a “first step” in a “divide and conquer” strategy against labor. Though the recall battle is no longer about bargaining rights, the history is unambigous about who is mostly to blame for what has happened and how this all got started.

I’ve said a number of times that I’m skeptical of the chances of recalling Walker, and I still haven’t revised that assessment. But there’s no question that the recall effort was a justifiable response to Walker’s overreach, and that pursuing it — even if it comes up short — was the right thing to do. The alternative — not responding to Walker’s conduct in a way that circumstances clearly warranted — would have been far worse.

* Obama campaign keeps up Massachusetts attack: Obama for America’s new video offers the most extensive case yet against Romney’s economic record as governor, underscoring that this line of attack is now absolutely central to efforts to undermine Romney’s aura of economic competence:

The video shows Romney in 2002 making strikingly similar promises to those he’s making today about bringing his business know-how to public sector job creation, and closes with this: “Romney economics does not work. It didn’t work in Massachusets, and it’s not gonna work in Washington.”

The point is to get voters to see Romney as more than a generic alternative to their disillusionment with the pace of the recovery, and to understand that despite his aura of having an economic magic touch, he’s offering a set of policies and ideas that have been tried before.

* Obama re-elect reality check of the day: A new round of NBC-Marist polls finds that Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat in three key swing states: Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa.

These findings are particularly noteworthy because one of the paths to 270 envisioned by the Obama team runs through the west: Holding states like Colorado and Nevada could be pivotal to Obama’s hopes of making up for expected losses in the Rust Belt.

* Bonus Obama re-elect reality check of the day: Bad:

The U.S. economy slowed more than initially thought in the first quarter amid smaller gains in consumption and inventories, while corporate profits picked up. Separately, two measures of the labor market indicated continued sluggish job growth.

Gross domestic product increased at a 1.9% annual rate from January through March, the Commerce Department said Thursday. In its original report a month ago, the department estimated an increase of 2.2% in first-quarter GDP, the broadest measure of all the goods and services produced in an economy.

* Still more bad economic numbers: Jobless claims rose again, and Steve Benen has the big picture in chart form. Monthy jobs report coming tomorrow.

* Romney’s dissembling about the stimulus: Must read. Michael Grunwald, who’s writing a book about the stimulus and knows whereof he speaks, skewers a major distortion in Romney’s ads: The claim that a stimulus watchdog says contracts were steered to friends and family.

Grunwald notes that the real story here, given the massive amount of money doled out, is the lack of genuine scandal. Yet this attack line on the stimulus is becoming central to Romney’s whole case against Obama.

* President Obama and his “kill list”: A great New York Times editorial that gets right to the heart of what’s wrong with Obama unilaterally making decisions about assassinations, particularly when he’s subject to the pressures of an election year:

No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle. ..

A unilateral campaign of death is untenable. To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list. And it should release the legal briefs upon which the targeted killing was based.

* Senate Dems at odds with Elizabeth Warren over Wall Street: Elizabeth Warren’s call for a reinstatement of the Glass-Steagell Act in response to the J.P. Morgan debacle is being met with caution by Senate Democratic leaders who are apparently wary of going any further than Dodd Frank in regulating big financial institutions.

If Warren is elected to the Senate, it’s not hard to imagine that she’d be at odds in a very high profile way with Dem leaders over how confrontational the party should be towards Wall Street.

* McConnell not sure GOP will retake Senate: Dems are circulating this interview Mitch McConnell gave to Roll Call, in which he was unwilling to predict that the GOP will retake the Senate, perhaps a sign that the map has shifted in the Dems’ direction in recent weeks.

Also note McConnell’s concession about Dems: “I’ll say this for our competition: They’ve done a good job on candidate recruitment, they’ve done a good job on fundraising. You know, they’re certainly not going to roll over.”

What else?