By failing to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Democrats may have unwittingly created a formidable personality for the 2012 election cycle and beyond.
Walker won election in 2010 on a platform of controlling government spending in part by taking on entrenched public employee unions. Once in office, he pushed through several pension and pay reform proposals that angered the unions enough to try to recall him at the earliest possible moment. It’s easy to recall the episode of Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers literally fleeing the state in order to try to prevent passage of those measures.
How one interprets Walker’s victory Tuesday, enabling him to remain in office through 2014, depends on who’s doing the interpreting. State and national Democratic forces were quick to point to a substantial cash advantage levied by forces favoring Walker as the decisive factor in his 54-46 percent win, in effect interpreting the outcome as more evidence of the baleful influence of money on the American political system. That was the overarching theme, for example, on MSNBC.
It’s difficult to present qualitative evidence either supporting or refuting that viewpoint, but instinctively it comes across as a bit cynical. In this instance, the Republican template – which portrayed Walker as a governor who did what he said and was vindicated by voters for doing so – is more persuasive.
And if that template is the more valid one, than the practical effect of the Wisconsin outcome is to stamp Walker firmly as the sort of no-nonsense politician voters often say they want.
One suspects that Mitt Romney, who is at this moment searching for a vice presidential running mate capable of electrifying both his base and undecided voters who may have grown cynical about politics, noticed Walker’s victory.
It wouldn’t be out of the question that by pushing the recall effort against Walker, Democrats inadvertently provided Romney with a tested model for his own campaign, and possibly even a credible vice presidential candidate.