High voter turnout in today's Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election could mean the difference between winning and losing for embattled incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, sending a national signal about the power of the Republican Party in the process.
Democratic supporters of Walker challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, say they have the advantage if turnout is high.
Right now, polling data suggest that voter turnout could be as high as 65%. However, this race is also about money.
Walker has outspent Barrett by a seven-to-one margin, mostly with out of state money from conservative groups empowered Super PACs. Among Walker's main Super PAC backers are the Koch brothers, who can benefit financially from lower labor costs with weaker union rights laws.
“The vote, a rematch of Walker's 2010 race against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, is widely viewed as one of the most significant contests nationally this year outside of the presidential race,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The recall was sparked by Walker’s union-busting policy that took away the collective bargaining rights of teachers and other state employees after Walker took office following his 2010 victory over Barrett.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters occupied Wisconsin’s State Capitol Building last year to try to stop Walker’s union-busting law. But the legislation was pushed through the Republican majority State Legislature.
Another Wisconsin recall election held last year, shifted the balance of power in the Wisconsin State House. Two of the six Republicans who were challenged by Democrats lost their seats, which split control down with middle with 16 on each side of the aisle.
The Wisconsin recall election is the first in the state’s history against a sitting governor. If Walker wins, it would be the first time in American history that a governor survived a recall election. In 2003, California Governor Gray Davis was recalled and lost, and in 1921 North Dakota Governor Lynn Frazier was recalled and lost.
The most prominent difference between other historic recall elections and the recall of Walker in Wisconsin is the influence of money, made possible by the Citizens United decision, of 2010.
Citizens United has drastically changed the way U.S. campaigns are financed and has opened a floodgate of money, mostly from wealthy conservative business people.
Republicans behind 2012 election Super PACs have announced their goal to spend $1 billion to influence the outcome of the 2012 elections in local and national contests.
“According to figures from the Sunlight Foundation, the top three Super PAC fundraisers this cycle are all Republican affiliated. The pro-Romney 'Restore Our Future' reports raising $56.5 million. American Crossroads, the Super PAC arm of the Karl Rove group Crossroads GPS , has raised $29.9 million. The pro-Gingrich “Winning Our Future” has raised $23.9 million,” according to ABC News.
Walker’s Wisconsin recall election campaign has spent more than $30 million. Challenger Tom Barrett comes in at $4 million. Outside groups with a vested interest in the outcome of the Wisconsin recall election have brought total spending to $63.5 million, making it the most expensive election in the state’s history.
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