MADISON, Wisc. — “I’m voting against Walker!” fumed a waitress at a steakhouse in downtown Madison late Sunday night, referring to Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his bid to survive a recall election Tuesday against Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. She went on to explain that the Republican governor “was a big reason I had to leave the University of Wisconsin when I was a junior last year. My professors were canceling classes so often to go out in the square [site of the State Capitol] to protest his program [requiring some public employee workers to contribute about six percent of their salary and 12 percent to their health insurance premiums], that it just wasn’t worth it for me to go to college anymore.”
Gosh! While one was tempted to suggest to the waitress that her anger should be vented on the professors themselves for choosing to protest rather than teach, it is simply not worth it — not in Madison, capital of Wisconsin and a university town, long considered a hotbed of American leftism. There are reports of numerous barfights at local establishments stemming from the mere mention of the name “Scott Walker.”
On the Monday before the nationally-watched vote on Walker’s fate, supporters of both the governor and Barrett are out early brandishing placards along the John Nolen Highway that goes through Madison.
With less than 24 hours to go before the voting, both sides are fully engaged and enthusiastic.
However, with even left-leaning polls giving Walker a slight lead and unaffiliated polls a larger advantage, state and national Democrats are beginning to repeat the mantra that even if the conservative GOP governor wins Tuesday, it won’t matter in terms of national politics or the November chances of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
“It’s a Wisconsin-specific moment, not a national referendum,” veteran Wisconsin Democratic strategist John Lapp, told the Wisconsin State Journal Monday.
In Washington, Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said recently that “[b]asically, there aren’t going to be any repercussions nationally, if Wisconsin voters decide to stick with Walker.”
Asked about Wasserman-Schultz’s remarks, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters: ” I think that there are issues obviously unique to that state and issues unique to the spending that’s happened in that particular matter that would suggest that she’s right, but I haven’t discussed it with the president.”
Unlike Bill Clinton, who recently came into the Badger State to stump with Barrett, President Obama has yet to appear with the Democratic nominee. Asked whether Obama has so much as endorsed Barrett, Carney replied that he has not talked about it with him and “you’ll have to contact the [Obama re-election] campaign.”