Embattled Republican Governor Scott Walker survived his Wisconsin recall election on Tuesday, defeating Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.
What was shocking was how dominating Walker’s win was.
The race was widely expected to be tight — most media outlets and analysts repeatedly used “too close to call” when referring to the vote, even after polls had closed and results came pouring in.
But Walker beat his challenger by almost 20% of the vote. With only 30% of polls reporting an hour after state-wide polls had closed, Walker was declared the projected winner.
Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch will retain their posts in Wisconsin.
The basis for the recall was anti-collective bargaining (aka anti-union) legislation that Walker helped pass in early 2011. Anger over Walker and his hyper-conservative, Tea Party agenda began building almost as soon as he took office in January 2011. Just a month into his term, Walker proposed to effectively end collective bargaining (union) rights for most state workers, setting off a fire storm of protests. The recall idea emerged soon thereafter.
Barrett – the mayor of Milwaukee — entered into the race. Walker had originally defeated Barrett in the 2010 governor election.
In the lead up to the election, polls had said that Walker was in the lead, but only by a slim margin. As polls in the state closed at 8 p.m., the New York Times reported a dead-even race, hinting that the results process could go deep into the night.
But Walker surged early, and with just 12% of polls reporting had already taken a 60% to 39% lead.
Barrett won the state capital Madison ... but the Milwaukee mayor lost his own city to Walker.
Exit polls show that nearly 9 out of 10 voters already had their minds made up by May 1. The massive surge of cash and campaigning by both Barrett and Walker likely made little difference.
Turnout was massive. A Madison city clerk had told a Wisconsin radio host that turnout for the area is expected at over 100%, up to 119%.
Democrats and organized labor had spent millions to oust Walker, but found themselves hopelessly outspent by Republicans from across the country who donated record-setting sums to Walker. The race was the costliest in state history. More than $66 million was spent on the race as of May 21.
Republicans, of course, hope the victory carries over into the November general election between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
So what was all the fuss about? Walker had tried to neutralize the ability of state unions and their collective bargaining strategies. Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and a group of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions. In politics, a conservative stance views the collective bargaining tactics of state unions (i.e. police, health care, state employees) as counter to free market principles. These collective bargaining tactics cheat taxpayers, the conservative thought goes, as they artificially inflate salaries and prices, which citizens then unjustly pay for.
Political unions contend that they exist to protect workers' writers. Wealthy "bosses" can no longer manipulate citizens or their salaries.