Obama avoids Wisconsin.
4:57 PM, Jun 2, 2012 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
In their corner? The Wall Street Journal reported this week that public employee unions have seen dramatic drops in membership since Walker’s reforms made union membership voluntary.
The Wisconsin branch of the American Federation of Teachers has lost some 6,000 of its 17,000 members. And membership in the state’s chapter of AFSCME has plummeted from nearly 63,000 to just 29,000 in just one year.
It’s not hard to understand why labor sees these reforms as such a threat and why they see the recall as so important. And yet Obama, if he’s wearing comfortable shoes, is doing so everywhere other than Wisconsin.
Yes, it’s true that Obama for America volunteers have been organizing in Wisconsin. And, yes, Obama endorsed Barrett – from Washington.
But how meaningless was that long-distance endorsement? When a reporter asked Jay Carney about it last week, the president’s spokesman said he did not know that his boss had formally backed Barrett.
Beyond that, Obama doesn’t want Wisconsin Democrats dispirited – perhaps even resentful – heading into November. His electoral strategy depends on a win in the state. We know this because his campaign has told us.
In December, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina laid out the president’s five best paths to 270 electoral votes – the West path, the Midwest path, the South path, the Florida path, and the Expansion path. What’s notable about them in this context: Each one assumes a win in Wisconsin.
That’s no longer a safe assumption, especially if Walker prevails on Tuesday. It’s true that Obama won Wisconsin by a huge margin in 2008 – 56-42. And he’s leading most polling now – with a RealClearPolitics average of 4.7 percent. But Republicans dominate the state legislature and hold the governorship. And the results of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections suggest the state could well be in play again. In 2004, John Kerry defeated George W. Bush by a margin of just 12,000 votes out of nearly 3 million. In 2000, Al Gore beat Bush by just 5,500 votes out of 2.5 million.
An Obama visit to Wisconsin, even if it preceded a loss, would have energized the activists who have been working in the state for more than a year – many of whom Obama will need to work for him over the next five months. And it would have given rank-and-file Democratic voters the sense that their president stood with them on a campaign of such obvious importance to them.
Maybe these folks will quickly move beyond the recall if Barrett loses. After all, five months is a long time to let those wounds heal.
But maybe not. It’s a big chance to take.
Of course, there’s another reason Obama might want to avoid Wisconsin—one that would not likely occur to Democrats in the state or their union brothers. Perhaps the White House understands that the reforms are working and recognizes that they’re increasingly popular among Wisconsin voters. And that, it seems to me, would be the most devastating indictment of the recall yet.
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