The GOP's massive turnout in Tuesday's primary election in Wisconsin put to rest Big Labor's claim that voters overwhelmingly reject Walker's budget reforms and want him recalled from office. The strong turnout, in an effectively uncontested primary, showed that a sizable number of voters are energized and committed to Walker's reform. But, the GOP surge did something else, too--it went down in the history books:
It has been 60 years since a candidate for governor got as many votes in a Wisconsin primary as Republican Scott Walker did Tuesday.
And it’s been 60 years since turnout in a gubernatorial primary was as high as it was Tuesday.
Walker got 626,538 votes running in a GOP primary with only token opposition, according to preliminary returns.
In 1952, Gov. Walter Kohler got 699,082 votes running unopposed in a Republican primary. (He would defeat future Sen. Bill Proxmire in the general election that year).
Keep in mind, the vote in 1952 was a regular primary election, not a special election like Tuesday's. Walker's vote haul far out-paced the combined vote of the two leading Democrat candidates and almost eclipsed the total number of votes cast in the entire Democrat primary. Walker's vote was 2-3 times higher than would normally be expected:
Political scientist Barry Burden of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said the typical vote for statewide incumbents in noncompetitive primaries has ranged between 200,000 and 300,000 votes in recent decades.
Having raised more than $25 million for the recall, Walker already has a sizable financial edge over his opponent, Tom Barrett. Unions will certainly reach further into their members' paychecks to bridge that gap, but Tuesday's results point to a deeper problem for Walker's opponents: enthusiasm. One leftist activist lamented about Walker's vote total:
"It means that we need top mobilization just to match it," Kraig said.
Tuesday's results show the unions have a very long way to go.