When Gov. Scott Walker appeared on conservative commentator Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show last week, the headline crawl asked regarding Wisconsin’s recall: “Most Important Non-Presidential Election?”
Every signal from Walker was that it is just that.
And that Walker, despite his $12 million campaign fund, is running scared.
The governor made all his usual claims about how the assaults he has launched on public education, services, local democracy, open government, the civil service system and collective bargaining rights were “working.” Walker even claimed “we’ve gained thousands of new jobs” — despite the figures that show Wisconsin has lost jobs every month since his budget was implemented last June.
If things are going so great, how come Walker’s running scared?
Wisconsinites might suggest that it has something to do with the criminal complaints lodged against the governor’s aides in a John Doe inquiry, with Walker admitting that investigators have demanded “literally thousands of emails” from his campaign. And they might note that Walker has hired two top criminal defense lawyers to represent him.
Walker claimed that the only trouble he has results from his being targeted by the “tens of millions of dollars that the big-government unions from Washington are spending.”
But there aren’t any “big-government union” ads attacking Walker on television in Wisconsin. Since the recall drive began, the only big-media advertising campaigns have been those paid for by Walker and national groups that back him.
After all that pro-Walker spending, polling shows that he remains vulnerable because of popular disapproval of his policies. Even in the most Walker-friendly recent poll, 55 percent opposed his attempts to limit the number of people eligible for the BadgerCare health assistance program and 65 percent opposed his reductions in state aid to public schools.
Despite those numbers, Walker told Kudlow: “There’s a small but vocal group out there that’s trying to force a recall election.”
Really? Since when are 1 million Wisconsinites, 46 percent of the turnout in the last gubernatorial election, “a small but vocal group”?
In fact, that is the largest portion of a state’s electorate ever to petition for the recall of a governor.
Walker knows that. It’s why he is running scared.
Walker used his Kudlow appearance to do something governors hate to do in public: beg for campaign contributions from out of state.
“My hope is people can come and join us at scottwalker.org and help us get our message out there,” Walker said. “To counter that big money coming in from Washington, we’re going to need the help not only from people here in Wisconsin but from people across the country.”
Walker was pitching hard for the money, claiming that supporting him was essential because the election will have “an impact both in November 2012 and in the future.”
If he wins, Walker said, “we’ll send a powerful message in every statehouse — not just ours but in every statehouse and in the halls of Congress.”
That was a fundraising pitch, the same one he took to Florida and Washington as the one-year anniversary of the Wisconsin struggle approached. And it sounded more than a little desperate.
But what Walker (and Kudlow) said is true. The Wisconsin recall is the most important non-presidential election of the year, and the results will send a powerful message.
It will be a real fight, pitting two critical forces in American politics against one another: the big money that Walker is raising from across the nation versus the people power that collected 1 million signatures on petitions demanding the removal of an increasingly desperate governor
John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times. email@example.com