The fingers on his right hand are still slightly askew, although he can shake hands and hold a beer — two things needed to campaign in Wisconsin, Barrett jokes.
Following the attack, Barrett was hailed as a hero. T-shirts showed up around Milwaukee saying, "Our mayor ain't no cream puff."
Walker beat him by 5 points, or about 125,000 votes.
With that loss still fresh, Barrett was not the first candidate to come to mind when talk of a recall heated up last year.
But after other party leaders such as former Sen. Russ Feingold and retiring Sen. Herb Kohl demurred, Barrett quickly became the leading Democrat to enter the fray.
The unions, who have clashed with Barrett over the years, backed rival Kathleen Falk. But they quickly lined up behind him after the primary win, saying they were united against their true target.
Barrett insists voters are also more fired up than they were in 2010, an off-year for Democratic candidates across the country. Rooms that were half-full that year are overflowing this time, Barrett said.
He pledges to draw sharp contrasts between what Walker said on the 2010 campaign trail with what actually happened after he took office. He says Walker has torn the state apart and "loves pitting people against one another."
"It's time to bring Wisconsin together," Barrett says in his most recent television ad.
Walker, through his television advertising and his own Tuesday night speech, has attempted to brand Barrett as a step backward, saying he supports policies that led to a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
"The differences couldn't be more stark," Walker's campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said.
Both sides have four short weeks to make their cases. No one, Barrett included, imagined it would come to this.
"If 18 months ago you would have said another governor's race is coming in 2012," Barrett said, "I would have said, 'What are you smoking?'"
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