“Remember me? I’m the only guy that gave you four surplus budgets out of the eight I sent.”
-- Former President Bill Clinton at a Monday fundraiser with President Obama.
WAUKESHA, Wisc. -- Tuesday’s oversized victory by Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisc., in the recall election launched by labor groups and Democrats here comes at an unhappy moment for Obama Democrats.
We are now about a third of the way through the general election season, and if the first act was a prelude to what’s to come, President Obama will be in for a very bumpy ride.
Obama said this week that his challenge in this election was “fear and frustration” among voters, but those adjectives might better suit the Democratic Party at this milestone moment in the 2012 election.
The failed recall in Wisconsin proved a microcosm of the troubles plaguing Obama and his party right now: internal divisions, an implacable base and muddled messaging.
Government worker unions, now the most important constituency of the Democratic Party, demanded the risky recall and Democrats in the state and nationally had little choice but to go along for the ride.
And while the Democratic nominee to replace Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, was out trying to talk to moderate voters about jobs and the economy, the Democratic base was fixated on an intense hatred of Walker and his law curbing the power of government worker unions.
The national narrative further intruded when the ongoing fracas between the Clinton and Obama wings of the party came to town. While Obama rankled Democratic activists by not campaigning for Barrett, former President Bill Clinton, still engaged in a two-week rampage through Obama’s election messaging, dropped in to campaign with their man.
Obama flew over the state as part of a six-fundraiser day and offered a Tweet of support , reinforcing his reputation as a solitary man, not a team player for his party. Clinton, meanwhile, ate it up like a fresh-grilled Sheboygan bratwurst.
The message for the small sliver of undecided voters in the state was that Democrats were a mess. The party’s talking points in the election sounded like scanning through the radio too fast.
The election also showed, most dangerously for Obama, that the same silent-majority voters who had been racking up wins for the GOP since 2009 are out in force. Why did the final result in the election – a 9-point trouncing – differ so much from what exit polls showed at the outset? Power Play suspects that the voters least likely to answer questions from inquisitive strangers with clipboards outside their precinct – working, white males –were out in force.
While an SEIU member from Madison might have been eager to talk about their vote, the forklift operator from Waukesha might prefer to not tarry and talk politics with someone they don’t know. We didn’t hear his voice in the exit poll, but sure did when the votes were counted.
Those guys have been keeping Republicans on a winning run since the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections in November 2009 and the hole in Tuesday’s polling data shows they are still voting, and not for Democrats.
It was 10 weeks ago that Republican Mitt Romney began to don the cloak of presumptive GOP nominee. Since then, Obama and his team have committed many unforced errors: the hot mic “flexibility” message for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin; jousting in public with the Supreme Court; the insult of Ann Romney; failing to get his party lined up behind the opening assault on Romney’s reputation; etc.
The president has also had plenty beyond his control go wrong. As the recovery stalls again there is an increasing sense that the president could be running on empty.
To have this all lead up to a blowout win for Walker in this recall has got to make Team Obama feel like they’ve been run over by the Packers’ defensive line.
There are now about 21 weeks until the election. If Obama has another 10 weeks like the ones he’s just completed, no amount of money, technology or organization will be able to save this election for him.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“Loose cannon? He is a double agent. What is the message? Bill Clinton says elect Obama because at the end of a second term you might begin to be getting out of recession? I wouldn't run on that.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.