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Did tea party put Scott Walker over the top in Wisconsin recall?

The tea party movement flexed its muscle in Wisconsin, as Gov. Scott Walker handily won a recall vote on Tuesday. Thirty-six percent of voters said they support the movement – and almost all went for Walker.

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Another important factor was Walker’s own performance in office, where a slight improvement in his margin of victory – a 7-point victory over Barrett yesterday compared to a 5.8-point margin in 2010 – suggests he won over some Wisconsinites for a series of tough decisions designed to help fix, or at least improve, deep-seated fiscal problems in the Badger State.

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But it was the tea party that provided Walker with a big final push against an energized Democratic base, which had collected about 1 million signatures to recall Walker.

In fact, some 36 percent of those who voted in Tuesday’s recall election said they were tea party supporters, and they voted for Walker at a rate of over 90 percent. (Meanwhile, 34 percent of voters said they opposed the tea party, voting by a similar margin for Barrett.)

“This is a good indication that there’s a ground game, though not necessarily a conventional ground game,” says University of Wisconsin pollster Charles Franklin. “But one would have to guess that out of the folks who did the phone banking for the GOP, a good chunk” were tea party members.

'Completely fired up'

With Walker’s victory, Wisconsin becomes the latest tea party-powered victory in the past few months, following Mr. Mourdock's in Indiana, and those by two tea party candidates, in Nevada and Texas, who challenged GOP establishment figures in Senate runoffs.

Walker’s win “was as good as if not better than when Scott Brown [won] in January 2010,” writes Cornell University law professor William Jacobson, a conservative blogger, referring to the race in which national tea party money helped turn the US Senate seat long held by the late Ted Kennedy to Mr. Brown, a Republican, in one of the country’s most liberal states.

“This election will signal to the Republicans [the importance of] the ground game issue,” says Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. “Republicans were just really advantaged both in the fundraising war, but also in phone calls and door-knocking. They’re completely fired up.”

But Mr. Burden also notes that Walker’s “solidification of his grasp of the state was much bigger than the tea party coalition and appealed to the broader swath of the public.”

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