June 2, 2012

BR'ER WALKER:

The Survivor (Alex Altman Monday, June 11, 2012, TIME)

It's hard to see any of this from Madison, where the anti-Walker hostility is as high as it was 15 months ago, when he muscled a bill through the legislature that increased public employees' obligations toward their pensions and health care costs and stripped them of virtually all their negotiating rights. For weeks, protesters flooded the frozen capitol square, marching laps around the statehouse in the falling snow and huddling on the marble floors of the rotunda. As soon as Wisconsin law permitted, they organized a recall drive that netted nearly 1 million signatures. Every weekday since the bill was signed, opponents have gathered at the capitol at high noon for an hour-long protest. "No matter what happens, this doesn't end here," says Chris Reeder, 41.

But while the activists chanted, the governor went to work. He raked in a record $31 million to defend his seat, most of which came from out-of-state donors. Republicans poured that cash into a robust ground game, blanketing the airwaves with ads and making more than 2.5 million phone calls to energize supporters. "They can protest," Wisconsin GOP spokesman Ben Sparks says of Walker's opponents. "They've got us beat on that. But that's about all they've got us beat on."

By charging straight at his critics, Wisconsin may actually be moving closer to the Republican column. Having assembled a seamless campaign to defend their imperiled star, party elders hope that his survival could foreshadow Romney's ability to ride a similar coalition of fiscal conservatives, Tea Partyers and heavyweight donors to an upset in the state in November. While Republicans haven't won Wisconsin on the presidential level since 1984, George W. Bush nearly pulled off the feat twice, and Romney is only a step or two behind Barack Obama in recent polls.

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Posted by at June 2, 2012 2:59 PM
  

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