Romney Looks for Primary Win in Wisconsin, but Also a Leg Up For the Fall

Romney Looks for Primary Win in Wisconsin, but Also a Leg Up For the Fall

“2 percent”

-- The advantage for a generic Democrat over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a June 5 recall election, according to a NBC News-Marist College poll.

It could hardly be more fitting that the Republican nominating process would enter its terminal phase in Wisconsin, because this election year is all about the Badger State.

The outcomes of a recall election for Gov. Scott Walker in June and then what promises to be a fiercely fought battle in the fall for the state’s 10 electoral votes will tell us volumes about where the nation’s political impulses lie.

The upper Midwest was a killing field for Democrats in 2010 as Rust Belt incumbents were mowed down by Republican challengers armed with Democratic votes for President Obama’s health care law and his plan to impose global warming fees on American industry.

Wisconsin was the most vivid example. A state which Obama had carried by 14 points and was considered by many to finally be firmly in the Democratic column snapped back to the GOP. Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by more than 5 points and, most shockingly, Sen. Russ Feingold, a fixture of national Democratic politics, got upended by Ron Johnson, a businessman and political neophyte.

The national sweep by the GOP put Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan in as chairman of the House Budget Committee, from whence he has proceeded to swiftly redefine the national political discussion by taking the Democrat’s dare on addressing Medicare. Wisconsin’s Republican revolution even helped propel state GOP Chairman Reince Priebus into the national party’s top job.

But just as soon as the Republicans took office, the Democratic backlash began, and it was ugly.

The Democratic caucus in the state senate fled the state to prevent a vote on Walker’s plan to reduce the benefits and bargaining power of government worker unions. While the Democratic senators were on the lam, union protesters reinforced by national labor groups and the national party occupied the state capitol for weeks. While Walker eventually triumphed, labor groups and Democrats believed they had struck upon a successful blueprint for bottling up Republican initiatives and winning in 2012.

Two strong political proclivities in Wisconsin – labor activism and a penchant for fiscal restraint – collided in furious fashion. Unions have since tried to replicate their success in storming the state capitol with Occupy Wall Street protests across the country.

Back in Wisconsin, labor groups also launched the first successful recall petition drive. After failing to retake the state Senate with recall drives, unions and Democrats are hoping to take down Walker.

How Walker fares in June will say a great deal about the strength of the parties’ bases. In what will likely be a low-turnout affair, the recall election will show us how strong the Democrat and Republican ground games are in this election year.

It is hard to imagine a way for Obama to be re-elected if he loses Wisconsin, which has gone to the Democratic nominee in every election since 1984. If Walker can win decisively in June it will be a matter of serious concern for the president.

Conversely, it will be a matter of worry for likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney if Walker gets the boot. The recall campaign ties together two of the main the threads with which Democrats hope to bind Romney: attacks on what Democrats say are heartless budget policies and highly motivated government union members to act as ground troops.

If Walker loses, Romney will have serious cause to worry about the trend line there, but also in places where the electorates look similar: his native Michigan and in Ohio, a must-win state for him.

Romney is hoping to put his remaining challengers on ice with a big win in Wisconsin on Tuesday, but he’s got his eye on June and November too. Romney, who has been appearing at rallies with Ryan and Johnson, is hoping to give the state GOP a boost ahead of the recall vote.

In what has become one of the most politically volatile states in the nation, there are no small elections.

The Day in Quotes

“So when some professional politician casually says they’ll get rid of Planned Parenthood, don’t forget what they’re really talking about. Eliminating the funding for preventive care that millions of women rely on and leaving them to fend for themselves.”

-- President Obama attacking likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in a video touting his support of the organization, which is also the leading provider of abortions in the United States.

“I can't remember a presidential candidate in the recent past who seems not to understand what ordinary middle-class people are thinking about and are concerned about.”

-- Vice President Joe Biden on “Face the Nation” attacking likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“The money they make from high gas prices is going right into Mitt Romney’s campaign.”

-- New television ad from Priorities USA, the political action committee supporting President Obama’s re-election, linking Romney to “big oil.”

“This president can’t run on his record. And so he’s going to try in every way he can to divert to some other kind of attack and try to have people disqualify our nominee, which will probably be me, and instead of talking about where we’ve been, and where we’re going as a nation.”

-- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigning in Middleton, Wisc.

“What President Obama is doing – regulation by regulation, tax by tax, imposition of government power by imposition of government power – is slowly crushing the dreams and the dreamers. We can't let it happen. We have to keep America the hope of the earth for our kids, for their kids, for the greatness of the future of humanity.”

-- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigning in Milwaukee.


-- The sum contributed to President Obama’s re-election bid by campaign fundraising volunteer Abake Assongba, who now stands accused of fraud in a Florida civil case.

"The mandate is something that's not really necessary. If the Justices strike [the individual mandate] down it might actually help the president, because people don’t like the mandate.”

-- Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who favors a government-run national health insurance program rather than the Obama mandate method, which subsidizes the purchase of private insurance, on “FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”

“As the good things in the law -- reining in insurance companies, helping seniors with prescription drugs, helping young people get health insurance -- become more and more known, the law becomes more and more popular.”

-- Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on “Meet the Press” talking about President Obama’s health law, the unpopularity of which is essentially unchanged since its enactment two years ago.

“The Congressional Research Service, which is not a polling operation, but analyzes objectively legislation, says if you raise taxes on oil production, the price of the gas at the pump goes even higher. So this is an absurd suggestion when you've got $4 gasoline.”

-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on “State of the Union.”

“The reason I'm here is because what the establishment is trying to shove down the throats of the folks of this country on the Republican ticket isn't being swallowed.”

-- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum campaigning in West Bend, Wisc.

"He's part of the establishment."

-- Karen Santorum, wife of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, overheard talking to her husband when the couple learned that Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a conservative GOP freshman who, as a novice politician, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010, was endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"The map in May looks very, very good for us.”

-- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum on “FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace” acknowledging that April will be a difficult month for his campaign.

“If Governor Romney gets to 1,144, not counting, by the way, disputed delegates in Arizona, Florida, and Idaho, but if he gets to 1,144, he will be the nominee.”

-- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on “Face the Nation” saying that he would endorse former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president, but only at the end of the primary process.

“I haven't made that decision yet. I'm still campaigning.”

-- Texas Rep. Ron Paul on “Face the Nation” when asked about whether he would back former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney if he secures the nomination.

"I'm far better at the ones I get to do on other people, but this was very good -- very, very good. This was classic."

-- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talking to reporters after being the victim of an April Fool’s Day prank by supporters Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson and Romney staffers who prepared the candidate to address a packed room of supporters in Milwaukee but sent him out into an empty ballroom.