The Big Story Blog

Seven ways Walker's win may matter outside Wisconsin

Posted at 10:08 AM on June 6, 2012 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

We posted this morning about what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's victory Tuesday night might mean for President Obama's national re-election chances in November.

Ron Elving, senior Washington editor for NPR News, builds on that with a post on ways Walker's victory may cascade into the politics of other states. Here's an edited version of his points:

Walker's win may change the way your state bargains with its employees. Tuesday's result may embolden other governors to move against public employee unions. The Republican governor's law curtailing collective bargaining for Wisconsin's public employees had been the galvanizing issue behind the recall push. His dramatic win in this closely watched contest reverses the momentum of a vote held last fall in Ohio, repealing a similar law enacted in that state in 2011. That vote had big labor believing it could chop down the Walker tree, too -- a major miscalculation.

Walker's win may change labor politics in your state more generally. Private company unions may also feel greater pressure from statehouses and legislatures around the country. Although Walker worked hard to placate union people in the private sector (and ran nearly even among voters from private union households), there will be those who see his success in restricting collective bargaining in the public sector as a template to roll back collective bargaining across the board.

Walker's win could affect your state's budget priorities. Labor policy was not the only cause of the recall vote. His resistance to taxes and preference for austerity in social programs and education were driven home in his first budget, accentuating a divide that already existed in the state. The revenue-versus-cutbacks debate is common across the states. It is also a dominant theme in the political gridlock in Washington. By surviving the recall, Walker has bolstered the morale of pro-austerity conservatives everywhere.

Walker's win could weaken President Obama's re-election chances by putting Wisconsin in play in November. After six straight presidential elections in the Democratic column, Wisconsin has been looking pretty blue -- especially when candidate Obama carried it by 14 points in 2012. Recent projections have tended to count it among his likely wins. But Republicans have insisted everything is now different in the Badger State, and Tuesday's vote will be seen as confirmation. Recent polls that showed Walker beating the recall also showed Obama beating Romney in Wisconsin, so this is a point yet to be proven.

Walker's win could inspire conservatives generally in this campaign season.Conservatives have come to see the Walker recall election as an uber-referendum on their cause. You will almost surely hear it referred to by Republican candidates through the rest of this campaign year. In the weeks and months ahead, Walker's win is another thumb on the scale in favor of hardline conservatism. He is seen as slaying not only the beast of the public employee unions, but also the beast of big government itself.

Walker's win highlights the role of Big Money in the politics of our time. The recalls of various state officials in Wisconsin were aided and resisted by big players from outside the state from the beginning. But by the end of the yearlong struggle, the state had become a virtual bystander (and a battlefield) for the clash of titans from someplace else. The saturation TV advertising was toxic, but its exact effect on the eventual outcome is unclear.

Walker's win may have upgraded his personal ticket enough to be considered for the national ticket. Walker became a conservative hero almost from the first week of his governorship in 2011, and that status will be revitalized by this week's vote. He becomes a likely featured speaker at this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference in Chicago, and possibly at the GOP convention in Tampa in August.

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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