Supporters of government reform have been buoyed recently by a slew of polls showing Gov. Scott Walker with a solid, growing lead in June's recall election. His blowout performance in the GOP primary showed that GOP voters were more energized than Democrats. Combine these facts with his overwhelming fundraising advantages, and it looks increasingly likely that Walker will survive the recall showdown. But it ain't over yet.
A Walker victory in the recall would be a devastating blow for public sector unions. They have already wasted millions of their members' dollars on failed recall efforts last year. They lost a special election for the state's Supreme Court. And their anointed candidate in the primary, Kathleen Falk, was crushed by Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. The loss to Walker would demoralize their members ahead of critical Fall elections. Worse, it may inspire other Governors to consider the same reforms, weakening unions across the country.
So expect unions to pull out every stop over the next ten days. Even though the DNC hasn't committed resources to the effort, the Obama campaign in the state has shifted all its workers to help on the recall.
In-person absentee voting began this week. The unions are conducting a comprehensive effort to get their supporters to vote early. Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots sent along this eye-witness account:
On Tues. May 22, I went to the Municipal Building in downtown Milwaukee, at the corner of Kilbourn & Broadway to cast my absentee vote for Gov. Scott Walker. After driving around for 10 minuets, I finally found a parking place. In front of the building I saw 2 white vans & one bus dropping off large groups of people to vote. At least a dozen employed workers with clip boards, wearing blue T Shirts with the logo "WI Jobs NOW" organizing loads of people into the Municipal Building, directing the as where to go, how to fill out the registration forms, and assisting their people.
There was a steady line of at least 70 people between 11am and 12 pm. It took me an hour to complete my absentee vote.
Naturally, Wisconsin election officials are doing everything they can to accommodate the early voting. The MacIver News Service reported today:
The election officials in Madison and Milwaukee are going out of their way to encourage successful early voting efforts in their cities. Both will keep the polling locations for early voting open for extended evening hours prior to the June 5 recall including being open on the weekends and the Memorial Day holiday.
While the Walker campaign, the state and county Republican parties and conservative groups are encouraging early absentee voting as well, these efforts are mostly via phone calls and mailers. There is no such comparable GOTV effort to transport likely Walker voters to the polls in Madison, Milwaukee, or anywhere else in Wisconsin prior to June 5th.
Brett Healy with MacIver shared this photo, which gives a sign of the size of the union effort:
Each of the white vans in the photo are part of the union fleet to drive supporters to election offices for early voting.
It was also reported today that Big Labor getting additional support from union members in neighboring states, who are traveling to WI for the campaign's final push:
In a Friday filing, We Are Wisconsin said it was getting reinforcements worth $36,770 from the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union represents such school employees as bus drivers, mechanics, crossing guards, clerical workers, custodians, aides, food service workers and security officers
"Just as hundreds of us in Wisconsin joined our friends in Ohio during the final days of the successful fight against SB 5, our brothers and sisters from Ohio have come to make phone calls and knock doors in support of Tom Barrett's campaign to reunite and move Wisconsin forward," said Kelly Steele, spokesman for We Are Wisconsin.
In the end, Walker's advantages and the increasing popularity of his budget reforms should be enough to withstand the union's aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts. But, with stakes this high, expect unions to put up a stiff fight until the very end. Supporters of Walker and government reform will have to answer the challenge.