Dems in disarray in Wisconsin
The Democratic primary to choose a challenger to face Governor Scott Walker in the June recall election will be held today. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is expected to breeze to victory.
But the Democrat's plans to run against Walker based on the controversial public employee union reforms have fallen through. Voters are more concerned about the economy in the state, and this has Democrats scrambling to satisfy their union paymasters while addressing the real concerns of voters.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin canceled a so-called "unity rally" planned for Wednesday, the day after the primary to determine which Democratic candidate will face Gov. Scott Walker in the state's special recall election.
According to its Facebook page, Democrats decided to focus on voter turnout, rather than unity.
"After serious discussion, we believe we can't afford to lose a single day of voter contact," the statement reads. "It is imperative that we do everything we can to contact and turn out the voters we need to achieve what we have all worked so hard for over the past fifteen months-recalling Scott Walker."
"The time for celebrating is when we beat Scott Walker on June 5," the statement continues. "So instead of uniting in celebration at the Capitol now, we need to unite in action all across the state."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is currently leading Dane County chief executive Kathleen Falk in the Democratic primary. Falk has positioned herself to the left of Barrett and has the support of many of the state's biggest unions.
A blogger at liberal outlet Daily Kos has alleged bad blood and dirty tricks between the camps.
"I don't know why the rally was canceled, but there has been widespread, unsubstantiated speculation that the front runner in the primary, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, decided at the last minute not to attend," the blogger writes. "The rumor being spread is that Tom Barrett does not want to be seen in the company of union leaders and union members for fear of having images of his participation in the rally being used against him by the Walker campaign."
The Wall Street Journal gives some background:
The topic of concern has switched to jobs and the economy," said Charles Franklin, who directed the Marquette University Law School poll. "It looks like that will continue into the summer."
The switch comes as opinion remains divided on Mr. Walker's signature initiative. According to the Marquette poll, 49% of state residents favor the limits on collective bargaining, and 45% opposes them. Mr. Barrett and Ms. Falk have pledged to restore the rights if elected.
Mr. Barrett and Mr. Walker are in a statistical dead heat, according to the poll, conducted during the last week of April. It also showed, by a 4-1 margin, that Wisconsin residents believe job creation is a higher priority than the restoration of collective bargaining rights.
That shifting political center of gravity is reflected in Mr. Walker's campaign schedule. It includes frequent appearances at manufacturing plants (one of the state's healthiest business sectors) and his announcement of a recent $100 million jobs program in Mr. Barrett's home base in Milwaukee. But recent employment statistics have undercut Mr. Walker's pledge to create 250,000 job in his first term. Between March of 2011 and March of 2012 Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs and ranked 50th among the states in terms of jobs created, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The numbers have opened up Mr. Walker to attacks. "Wisconsin needs a governor who is focused on jobs, not ideology," Mr. Barrett, who lost to Mr. Walker by 6 points in 2010, writes on his campaign website. "A leader committed to bringing our state together and healing political wounds, not pitting people against each other and catering to special interests."
If Walker loses, liberals will still try to spin the results as a vote against his collective bargaining bill. But most ordinary voters in Wisconsin have far more important things on their minds and Walker's vulnerability on the economy may do him in yet.