WI recall a good predictor of general election?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 24, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R - WISCONSIN: The whole basis upon which this recall election was at least in his eyes was about reforms. And they don't talk about the reforms anymore because the reforms are working. They've had more than a billion dollars worth of saving, they're lowered property taxes. The budget was a next issue they talked about. The budget now has a $154 million surplus, and that's been documented as well.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: We have put enormous resource, over $1 million of resources into the state. I still think it's gonna be a close race. I still that think Barrett will win. But I don't know what it will say about moving forward and I don't think it will say much.


BAIER BAIER, ANCHOR: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat, trails the current Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin in that recall election June 5 pretty much in every single poll as it stands now. What is this really doing? Is there a shift in Wisconsin? We're back with the panel. Steve, our Wisconsin expert, what is the latest?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think that those polls that show Governor Walker roughly up five or six points are accurate because there are a number of them as you suggest, and I think they are consistent with internal polling on the Republican side.

What is happening now is Democrats are basically issue shopping, as Governor Walker suggested in the sound bite you played. They started with the collective bargaining, it was the budget reforms. These were the things that were the trigger for the recall in effect. And Democrats are no longer talking about those issues. And there was a poll done of Democrats in Wisconsin, what's the single issue, what issue matters to you most, as you consider your vote in the recall? Collective bargaining came in at 12 percent, fourth out of all the issues that were listed. So it's not an issue that moves voters anymore.

So then the real question is why are we having a recall? This was the purpose of the recall and nobody cares about it, or few people care about it. And so Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, who's the Democrat opposing Scott Walker, has tried all of these other issues. He's tried budget, he's tried jobs, he's trying -- now he is trying this -- there's an investigation into some former Scott Walker aides. He is doing ads on that. But there doesn't seem to be much of a rationale for candidacy because he is not putting out any policy ideas of his own.

BAIER: Juan, you heard David Axelrod there. Is there a sense that Democrats either in Wisconsin or nationally are starting to throw in the towel and change the talking points on Wisconsin?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I think, the unions I don't think are throwing in the towel. The unions clearly want Walker out. But the sense that I had - I was there last week - was that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said we don't endorse having Walker thrown out right now. You may have trouble with his policies, you may have trouble with the idea that Wisconsin has become such a polarized state, so a battleground between left and right. We don't like it either, but we don't see recalling a governor on this basis.

I think they are issue shopping to some extent. But with the little bite that you heard from Russ Feingold there I think tells you a lot. Russ Feingold simply said, this is not the Wisconsin we knew, and we need to move away from this kind of static.

BAIER: Whether it's a recall or a regular election is really the question.

WILLIAMS: But as I said, even the newspaper - look, they got just about a million signatures for a recall. That's pretty significant. But right now I think the temperature is shifting toward Walker.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And as that happens, as we saw earlier in the show, they're reporting that some of the Democratic groups are withdrawing their ads, looking at a loss coming up. And I love the way that the Democrats are now trying to discount the importance of this election. This -- it's like saying Waterloo is a skirmish in the Belgian wilderness. This is Armageddon for the unions. This is their third shot on this issue, this one huge issue. They want to make an example of Walker because they know that people -- they have been living high on the hog with these corrupt deal, these contracts with politicians for half a century, and Walker challenged them and it looks as if he is winning. They had one election in the Supreme Court in Wisconsin, they did not succeed. They had a recall election in the Senate and they did not succeed. If they don't succeed here, three strikes and you're out, it will be a huge defeat for the unions.

BAIER: We will be out there on June 4 and June 5, take "Special Report" on road in Madison and Waukesha, Wisconsin. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to find out the latest trend in pet ownership.

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