Walker's Win Shows Big Money Can Trump Grassroots Fervor
One silver lining for Democrats: Exit polls show Barack Obama beating Mitt Romney
June 6, 2012
Scott Walker's Wisconsin win means a lot of things. It means that a 7-to-1 money advantage trumped grassroots organizing. It means that extreme ideological agendas can be successfully pushed with the backing of the right billionaires. It means that despite the labor movement's energy and attention, unions can't come close to matching the financial advantage of the antilabor, procorporate forces. If there was a silver-lining for Democrats though, it was that President Barack Obama was favored in Wisconsin by 7 points in exit polls. If last night's electorate shows up in November, President Obama will win Wisconsin. It's hard to argue looking at those numbers that Scott Walker's success in Wisconsin translates directly into easy sledding for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
In fact, voters often have a tendency to vote for the other side after giving one party a win. In my home state of Virginia, the president's party has not been able to win the governorship since 1977. Swing voters tend to like divided government and are reluctant to hand one side all of the reins of power. This is exactly what happened in the 2010 midterm elections, when a massive backlash over Democratic control of the House, Senate, and presidency swept Republicans into power in the House of Representatives and in state houses across the country. Scott Walker's win in Wisconsin means that Democrats still have a local villain they can use to energize their base in November and that swing voters will feel pulled to give the Democratic side a hearing. In fact, unpopular Republican governors in a number of swing states could cause problems for Romney. In Ohio, Republican John Kasich has been rewarded for his anti-union efforts with an approval rating in the low 40s. Florida Gov. Rick Scott's was even more dimly viewed as his approval rating bottomed out at 34 percent.
The one way in which Wisconsin does bode ill for the president is the sheer amount of money that the right is willing to throw at defeating proworker movements. Scott Walker raised $29 million for the recall with 62 percent of his funds coming from outside Wisconsin. His challenger Tom Barrett, in contrast, raised only $3 million with 26 percent coming from outside groups. No one expects the Romney-Obama money advantage to be quite that extreme, but with right-wing Super PACS loaded up with cash and ready to go, it's disturbing to see how effective their dollars can be.