Cross-posted from The Nation
Political analysts on the right and the left agree that the Wisconsin
recall race between Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic
challenger Tom Barrett is the most competitive gubernatorial race in the
nation. Pundits on the left and the right agree that the Wisconsin
fight -- which targets a conservative governor who has brought an
anti-labor, austerity agenda to an American state -- is second only to the presidential race in importance.
But there is a dramatic difference in the intensity
of commitment to the race by national Republicans and their
conservative allies on one side and national Democrats and their allies
on the other.
The Republicans aren't holding anything back.
"We're all in here," says Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus,
a Wisconsinite whose name has turned up frequently in indictments of
Walker aides targeted by a "John Doe" inquiry into felony violations of
government ethics and campaign-finance laws. "We will be involved for as
much as we need to be involved. We haven't put a limit on the number."
Priebus offers his "all in" commitment even though Walker's campaign has a 25-1 financial advantage over Barrett.
And that doesn't even count the millions coming in from the Koch
brothers and other national donors who are funding so-called
"independent" expenditures on the governor's behalf.
What is the Democratic National Committee offering in return? Not as much.
While the Democratic Governors Association and some other groups with
party ties have been supportive of the electoral fight in Wisconsin, the
DNC has been slow on the draw. Even now, after much discussion of the
DNC's slow response, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
says only that she hopes to come to Wisconsin for a fundraising event.
Translation: she will make an appearance in Wisconsin where
Wisconsinites will be asked to give money to the DNC.
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Needless to say, that's not even a minimally equal level of commitment to the one made by Priebus and the RNC.
In fairness, Democrats do not have to equal the Republican level of engagement. They just have to be in the game.
That's because Walker's spending, while meaningful, can't undo all the damage he has done to his own reputation.
Walker burned through $21 million between November and late April,
yet his approval ratings -- according to what's generally seen as the most
reliable Wisconsin poll, that of Marquette University's Law School -- have
actually declined slightly since the start of the year.
Despite the spending of the better part of $30 million on pro-Walker
and anti-Barrett messaging, the latest polls show a race where Walker still can't get above 50 percent approval ratings or support levels.
While the latest polls give the governor a narrow lead,
they also show that there is deep concern about job losses. Indeed,
according to the latest Marquette University Law School survey, that
concern has risen dramatically in recent months.
Walker is clearly frightened by that reality. Burned by Bureau of
Labor Statistics data that show Wisconsin has suffered the worst job
losses in the nation since the governor's austerity agenda was
implemented, Walker on Wednesday pitched a "revised" set of jobs
figures -- based on projections from data used by no other state and no
previous Wisconsin governor. Walker and his campaign are now pouring
millions of dollars into advertising that pushes an agenda that, by
every traditional measure, is failing. Walker and his campaign are now
pouring millions of dollars into advertising that says an agenda, which
by every traditional measure is failing, has, by a calculus known only
to the governor, succeeded.
That's a tough sell.
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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.
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