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Cheese it!

Obama avoids Wisconsin.

4:57 PM, Jun 2, 2012 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Barack Obama seems determined to avoid Wisconsin.


On Friday, he visited Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a midday speech and three fundraisers. He departed late afternoon for Chicago and three more fundraisers that evening. The president stayed overnight in his hometown and spent Saturday morning at his old home before flying back to Washington, D.C., for a brief stop before heading to Camp David for some downtime.

So just four days before the recall elections in Wisconsin that the state’s Democrats have worked 16 months to win, with potential implications for November 2012, the leader of their party did six fundraisers for himself in surrounding states but couldn’t find time for even a quick stop? Think about it: As Wisconsin Democrats were busy getting voters to cast early ballots Friday and organizing for Tuesday, Air Force One flew overhead twice–from Washington to Minnesota and Minnesota to Chicago.

I’m no political strategist, but I don’t get it.

Conventional wisdom is that Obama is avoiding a trip to Wisconsin because internal Democratic polling, like several recent public polls, shows Governor Scott Walker with an insurmountable lead over Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. Obama, this thinking goes, risks looking impotent if he makes an appearance for a losing candidate. I suppose that’s correct, and there are certainly downsides to a visit.

But I wonder if the downsides to skipping the state – and skipping it in the way that he did – are not worse. And there’s always the outside chance that Barrett pulls off a surprise victory – in which case Obama would have been celebrated as a difference-maker.

It’s clear that Wisconsin Democrats wanted him to come. In an interview with the Huffington Post on Thursday Barrett responded to Obama’s visit across the state’s border and invited the president to Wisconsin. “We’d love to have him zip over to western Wisconsin,” Barrett said. “I’m happy to meet him for a fish fry.” 

No luck. Rather than travel the thirty miles from the Twin Cities for the perch special at the Mallalieu Inn over in Hudson, Wisconsin (or, even better, a burger at Dick’s), Obama went straight to Illinois, where he held a fundraiser at the Chicago Cultural Center “in an ornate, high-ceilinged room where guests in business attire mingled and sipped wine,” according to the pool report. Tickets started at $2,500.

Wisconsin Democrats cannot be happy with the snub. They were “furious” at what they perceived as inadequate support from national Democrats, leaking their frustrations in what looked like an attempt to shame the Democratic National Committee into providing the backing they were seeking

A few days after that piece ran, the Wall Street Journal reported that national Democrats had advised their Wisconsin counterparts against pursuing a recall in the first place.

Top Democrats now say that when labor groups first raised the specter of a recall, the party's officials urged their allies in Wisconsin to reconsider. "We told them it was a bad, bad, bad idea," one Democratic official said. 

A union official said both the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign expressed reservations. "I don't know that anyone was enthusiastic about it over there," the union official said. 

The bitterness that has led to such finger-pointing will be much worse if Barrett loses on Tuesday. That cannot be good for Obama. Two groups important to his reelection will feel abandoned by their president: labor and Wisconsin Democrats.

Start with labor. Throughout his presidential campaign, Obama promised that he would be a friend to labor in the White House, a national spokesman of sorts for America’s workers.

“And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself,” he said while campaigning in 2007. “I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody’s standing in their corner.”

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