Wisconsin Recall Tests Conservatives' Ground Game

Wisconsin is shaping up to be a semifinal match in the get-out-the-vote tournament, with the final being the November presidential election, which is expected to be close.

A Walker victory would be highly symbolic for the right. Conservatives respect and fear the "ground game" labor unions use to get Democrats out to vote, above all in the manufacturing state of Wisconsin. So a win for Walker, who has maintained a single-digit lead in polls over his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, would be seen as a major conservative victory.

But successfully marshaling a grassroots activist army in Wisconsin is about more than just bragging rights. It would also help bring in more money for conservative grassroots efforts ahead of November's U.S. presidential election.

"Even if they don't like him, it could be these guys who push (Republican presidential candidate Mitt) Romney over the line," against Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama, said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"They have taken a bet on Wisconsin and now have to deliver the results to get more money," O'Connell, chairman of the CivicForum political action committee, said.

But Republicans may pay a price for a conservative base that is not merely energized but organized. The party "establishment" has been forced to the right of the political spectrum by the Tea Party and may have to tack further right to appease grassroots activists.

"If Republicans see these groups can deliver, they will be more likely to cave in to some of their demands," O'Connell said.

Read more from Nick Carey at Reuters

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published this page in In The News 2012-06-01 13:00:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy