A novel approach by the Democratic candidate seeking to unseat Governor Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election.
Duluth News Tribune:
Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, down in the polls to Gov. Scott Walker, aggressively went after the first-term Republican in a debate Friday and accused him of purposefully dividing the state and triggering the June 5 recall election.
A feisty Barrett kept Walker on the defensive throughout much of the hour-long debate in Milwaukee, which was broadcast live statewide just 11 days before the election. Walker is only the nation's third governor to ever stand for recall. The previous two, most recently California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, were defeated.
Polls show a tight race, with Walker holding a narrow lead within the margin of error of two publicly released polls within the past 10 days.
Walker, who defeated Barrett in 2010 by 5 points to win election as governor, was targeted for recall after successfully passing a law last year that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.
Barrett said that proposal, which sparked massive protests for weeks and made Wisconsin the center of a national debate of worker rights, tore the state apart. Walker said his measure, which also forced most workers to pay more for pensions and health insurance, was needed to help deal with a $3.6 billion state budget deficit.
"You decided to use a budget crisis to try and divide and conquer this state," Barrett said, speaking directly to Walker as the two stood near each other behind podiums in a television studio. "That's what happened. That's what led to all of this. And you succeeded. You succeeded in dividing this state."
Walker said he was focused on moving the state forward and didn't want to relive the past.
Polls have shown that the people agree with Walker; they have moved on from the legislation that reformed public employee bargaining and are concentrating on which candidate is best for the state's economy. Barrett was trying to whip up enthusiasm from his base - a sound tactic given that these off year elections generally turn on which candidate can flog more of his supporters to the polls. Surveys show that the GOP has a decided edge in enthusiasm - something Barrett felt necessary to counter by bringing up what most voters see as a dead issue.
Walker is ahead by as much as 8 points in one poll. Blaming his opponent for a recall started by his allies in labor unions probably won't help Barrett that much.