The Democratic National Committee is aggressively pushing back against the idea that it is not doing enough to help the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, insisting that the party is marshalling its considerable grassroots and turnout operation to aid Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is headed to the state to raise money for Barrett later this month. And, Obama for America state director Tripp Wellde is also working on the recall effort.
“We are completely committed to electing Tom Barrett,” said DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse. “Any suggestion of a lack of commitment or engagement on the part of the DNC/OFA is off the mark and does nothing more than play into the hands of Scott Walker and his billionaire buddies who launched their frontal assault on working families in Wisconsin.”
Added Wisconsin Democratic state party executive director Maggie Brickerman: “The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has always had and will continue to have a strong relationship with the DNC and OFA.”
The DNC pointed response comes just days after the Plum Line’s Greg Sargent reported of growing tensions between Wisconsin and Washington over the amount of financial help that the DNC was providing Barrett.
Sargent quoted Wisconsin Democrats carping about the fact that they had requested $500,000 to help build their turnout operation and never heard back.
There is also some disappointment, according to one Wisconsin Democratic operative, that the President himself isn’t scheduled to make a campaign stop on Barrett’s behalf.
“He’d be huge to motivate the base, boost black turnout in Milwaukee, and raise cash,” said the source. “They’re playing it safe here, but given that he’s out there supporting Barrett and on collective bargaining, I believe it’s a no-brainer that it’d be a net plus for Obama in November — even if Walker hangs on.”
DNC officials insist that they have not ruled out making a major donation although given that the party has already told the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee not to expect any major cash infusions, it seems very unlikely they would divert such a big sum to the recall effort. And, the President could of course re-arrange his schedule to make an appearance in the state between now and the June 5 recall.
So, what’s the truth amid all of this spin? That depends on where you stand.
From the DNC perspective, they have made investments well in excess of the $500,000 that was requested and have made other contributions — man hours and the use of various Obama for America voters lists — that make clear how big a priority recalling Walker is for them.
DNC allies note that with such a tiny portion of the electorate genuinely undecided, the work they are doing to identify and turnout pro-Barrett (or anti-Walker) votes is invaluable to increasing the party’s chances of winning on June 5.
The view from Wisconsin is that while the amount of money being spent by the DNC looks impressive, it is dedicated almost entirely to helping President Obama win the Badger State in the fall, not to helping beat Walker in a few weeks time.
And with Walker — and the various Republican campaign entities — spending heavily on television, there is some level of panic about the inability of the Barrett campaign to come anywhere close to matching those GOP interests.
“[Barrett is] being outspent 25 to 1, and I think they believe if they’d even be able to coax a couple million out of some of these people — who we all know have it and/or can raise it in a heartbeat — it’d even the score,” said one Democratic strategist keeping a close eye on the recall.
As always in major spin wars like this one, there is also some level of butt-covering at work. A recent independent poll showed Walker opening up a six point lead on Barrett. If Walker does wind up winning, it will be a major blow to organized labor nationally and will be cast as a sign that the President is vulnerable in the state.
With stakes that high, everyone within the Democratic party is making sure they have plausible deniability about whose feet a loss should/would/could be laid.
Regardless of which side you agree with, it’s not a great sign that less than three weeks before the recall vote Democrats are clearly divided about how they have approached the high profile race to unseat Walker.