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Does Kathleen Falk Have What It Takes to Beat the Democratic Establishment?

3:44 PM, Apr 25, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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With less than two weeks to go until Wisconsin's Democratic gubernatorial recall primary, it seems that former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk's labor allies have given up on her. 

Last Monday, a PPP poll showed the labor-backed Falk trailing Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett 38 percent to 24 percent in the primary. Two days later, a coalition of labor groups that spent $3 million on Falk went silent, as Daniel Bice reported in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It had no TV spots running anywhere in the state for days, just as talk spread of dissension in the labor community," Bice reported.

Politico's David Catanese reported Tuesday night that Falk's campaign is now "on the verge of ratcheting up their case against Tom Barrett." A Falk strategist tells Politico: “In these last two weeks we’re going to close the remaining gap by positively comparing their very different records on workers’ rights." But it may be too little, too late. Falk failed to attack Barrett at a debate two nights ago in Racine. And a new, supposedly more aggressive Falk TV ad is actually quite timid--it never even mentions Barrett. 

At one point, it seemed that Falk had a clear path to victory: hitting Barrett as a hypocrite on the collective bargaining reforms that are the very reason the recalls are taking place. As an SEIU official told Salon, "[U]nless people see this as something that’s going to really reverse what Walker’s done … people who have been involved, and are involved from the movement side, then they’ll be reluctant to participate, and even vote perhaps."

But Falk has failed so far to make the primary such a stark choice for Democratic voters. In part, she was constrained by the incredibly short primary schedule. In a typical presidential primary, candidates will go for a few months without throwing punches at one another. But in Wisconsin, the entire recall primary season is a little over four weeks. Barrett now seems to be a strong favorite for the nominations, and it's unclear if Falk is willing to do what it would take to beat him. 

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