Tea Party Express wins it for Scott Walker - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Tea Party Express wins it for Scott Walker

That was fun.

After the smoke cleared, Wisconsin’s historic venture to the recall polls in June ended as it had in November 2010: Gov. Scott Walker defeats Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, this time by six points.

About 2.5 million voters wanted to get in on the fight, almost a half  million more than the first bout in 2010.  Still, 43 percent stayed home.

Walker’s victory speech attempted to bring peace to the divisive state. “Bringing our state together will take some time, but I hope to start right away,” Walker said. “It is time to put our differences aside and figure out ways that we can move Wisconsin forward.”

But the recall election in Wisconsin remained a classic display of special interests getting back in the ring for a preliminary bout before the November elections. And it was a joy to watch from the couch.

In one corner were the Koch Brothers, the elite of corporate Wisconsin and its political machine known as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the pro-voucher empire, the likes of Amway and the Waltons. The Tea Party Express got in on the action, as well.

There was Walker crossing the country asking for unlimited campaign contributions and coming back with $30 million in his pockets. (Barrett got in late and scraped together $4million.)

And conservative talk radio backed up their talking points–with the usual shrill. Favorite topics were about freeloading public employees whining about Walker taking away their collective bargaining rights.

In the other corner were the aforementioned state teachers’ union, the “big labor” state workers, and unions in general. They were mostly under umbrellas such as One Wisconsin Now, United Wisconsin, We Are Wisconsin, and the Progressive Change Committee.

Millions were spent. It definitely led to a bottom-line boon for the state’s media.

Most of that was on the airwaves, of course, hammering Barrett for the economic shape of Milwaukee (which, in national terms and reality, isn’t too good). It was an easy target, but he’s trying.

Barrett’s best shot on TV was raising the questions that still surround a John Doe investigation related to Walker’s staffers when he was Milwaukee County Executive. Indictments have been made and pleas have been copped in a district attorney’s probe into Walker staffers using county resources to campaign for a Walker compatriot for lieutenant governor, and then for Walker himself.

And then there was a blurry jobs argument. Walker was getting called out for a federal report showing Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state in the past year. But two weeks before the polls opened, Walker’s administration released early numbers stating the state created 30,000 jobs during that time.

In the last week of the race, the Walker camp launched an ad trying to link the mayor to under-reported crime statistics by the police department.  It highlighted the case of a 2-year-old who was abused and the assailant arrested, “but in Tom Barrett’s Milwaukee, this isn’t a crime.” A low blow indeed.

The two sides combined for a TV assault certainly never seen this time of year, thinking that somehow, they were going to change people’s minds. But there were no undecided voters for this match. Polls until the end showed this was up or down on Walker. Democrats voted to have Barrett along for the ride in a primary four weeks before Tuesday’s tilt.

There was no time for issues. Barrett’s camp even said his issues were the same as when he ran in 2010.

It was about Walker and the state GOP establishment ability to withstand an organized effort to round up more than 900,000 people saying they wanted to see Republicans defend themselves. The year leading up to this moment was a tantamount display of organizing by the recall petitioners, who had 45 days to summon at least 540,000 signatures.

It’s hard to say if the Tea Party can come up with those kinds of numbers, but they feel emboldened by this whole process as well.

And the two sides will get to play in Wisconsin again, as the state has an open U. S. Senate seat, which could pit former 19-year governor Tommy Thompson (who was last seen in the state in 2001, after he took a job as Secretary of Health and Human Services for George W. Bush) against Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, one of the more liberal members of the House. President Barrack Obama won big in here in 2008, but the GOP has its tail feathers up after Tuesday.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney already was beaming with what this may mean on a national scale. “Gov. Walker has demonstrated over the past year what sound fiscal policies can do to turn an economy around, and I believe that in November voters across the country will demonstrate that they want the same in Washington, D.C. Tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin.”

About the author

Doug Hissom

Doug Hissom writes a weekly environmental column for Baltimore Post-Examiner. He has covered local and state politics in Wisconsin for more than 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper. An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe. Contact the author.

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