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For Wisconsin Democrats, recall of Gov. Scott Walker would be tall order

Democrats in Wisconsin and some of their union backers are vowing to launch a recall effort to try to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker. But a 2012 recall could be problematic.

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“You cannot nullify elections just because you didn’t like the outcome. Recalls are for malfeasance. [The Republican state senators] did not do it. They did their jobs. They should not have been up for [a recall] in the first place,” says Rick Baas, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Milwaukee County. If Democrats do launch a recall effort of the governor, it will be “fool hardy,” he says, because it is unlikely the national Democratic Party will steer money away from the national election.

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A Walker recall effort would not necessarily help Democrats much, because they would remain stymied by GOP control of both the state Senate and the Assembly, says John McAdams, a political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee. (Democrats say the pickup of two Senate seats on Tuesday gives the GOP just a 17-16 majority, which will now make it more difficult for Republicans to approve legislation without some Democratic backing.)

Another obstacle, says Mr. McAdams, is time: The longer Walker’s policies take hold in Wisconsin, the more the public has an opportunity to see any benefits that may accrue. “Simply recalling Walker doesn’t get [Democrats] anywhere close to what they want,” he says.

Moreover, a Walker recall in November 2012 could be overshadowed by the presidential election, which would shift priorities at the state level – both in manpower and campaign money. “I’m a bit skeptical that Walker is going to face a genuinely serious recall effort. There’s a lot going on in 2012,” says McAdams.

Unions are uncertain whether a Walker recall is worth the financial commitment, especially with labor under threat in surrounding states such as Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, says a national official with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), who asked that his name not be used because he is not allowed to speak publicly.

He said the ALF-CIO's main focus in Wisconsin is defending two Democratic state senators who face recall votes on Aug. 16. After that, that national effort will turn to Ohio, where voters will have an opportunity on Nov. 8 to undo a bill passed earlier this year that erodes collective bargaining rights.

If his adversaries do launch a recall effort later this year, Walker is prepared for the fight. The governor has raised $2.5 million in the first half of 2011 – five times the amount his predecessor raised in the same period after his election, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The recall election in Wisconsin Tuesday is being cheered as a victory for both political parties in the state: Republicans say they successfully thwarted a Democratic push to take over the state Senate while Democrats say winning at least two Senate seats has slimmed the margin between both parties to 17-16, which will make it more difficult for legislation they consider unfavorable to pass moving forward.


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