Just four days out from the Wisconsin's historic gubernatorial recall election, former president Bill Clinton and Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett could only draw a small crowd to a rally Friday on Barrett's home turf.
As the Associated Press notes, the crowd numbered only in the "hundreds," a sign of the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans that has appeared in some polls. Overcast weather and the short notice of the event (it was announced just yesterday) may have depressed turnout. But a sitting mayor of a Democratic city and a popular former Democratic president still should have been able to draw more than hundreds of people on Friday if Barrett supporters were fired up and ready to go. Congressman Paul Ryan has been known to draw hundreds of people to some of his townhall meetings in the Milwaukee exurbs.
Before Clinton's 18-minute speech, rally-goers were treated to a poem and song, "Hit the Road Scott," by Rep. Gwen Moore. "This guy is 65-years old and he's getting hit on by porn stars," one rallygoer could be heard gushing over Clinton in anticipation of his arrival. "This guy is a god."
After being introduced by Barrett, Clinton spoke in vague generalities of the need for "creative cooperation" and "shared sacrifice." Clinton said Barrett showed he could balance the budget in Milwaukee through "shared sacrifice" without "breaking the unions." (In fact, the Milwaukee unions wouldn't budge during negotiations last year, and Barrett had to wait for Walker's collective bargaining reforms to take effect in order to exact millions of dollars of concessions from the unions.)
Clinton said that although he doesn't normally support recall elections, "sometimes it is the only way to avoid a disastrous course." If Walker wins, his allies would "break every union in America," Clinton explained. Barrett has warned that if Walker wins reelection he'll make Wisconsin a right-to-work state, something Walker has denied. Bill Clinton's native Arkansas has been a right-to-work state since 1944, but the former president and Arkansas governor made no mention of any negative consequences the state has experienced because of that law.
Later in the day, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina (another right-to-work state) campaigned with Scott Walker at a factory in Waukesha. Haley spoke on the theme of Walker's "courage."
"We will never be judged by what we said. We will be judged by what we do," Haley said. "He had the courage to take it on even when it got ugly, and he never stopped."
"Are you going to award the courage he showed," Haley asked. "Are you going to respond to the results he gave you?"
"Politics has got to be the only profession where you get called 'courageous' just by keeping your word," Walker told factory workers. "Everywhere else in life, in business, in our families, it's expected. But somehow it's exceptional in politics."