Their Finest Hour

Polls open in Wisconsin

June 5, 2012

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Polls opened Tuesday morning in Wisconsin’s special recall election, where voters will decide whether incumbent GOP Gov. Scott Walker will remain in office or be replaced by Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Both candidates campaigned at a furious clip in the days leading up to Tuesday. At their final campaign rallies Monday night, Walker and Barrett gave their closing arguments to voters.

Speaking at a union rally in Kenosha Monday evening, Barrett hammered Walker for raising significant amounts of money from out-of-state donors and warned that Walker would "continue to go after the working class" if allowed to stay in office.

"[Walker] became the rock star of the far right, raising millions of dollars from out of state," Barrett said at a union rally in Kenosha. "People of Wisconsin know it's wrong to take that money from out of state."

Meanwhile, Walker presented himself as a governor who keeps his word.

"It’s amazing to me that you can be called courageous in politics just for keeping your word," Walker told a crowd of faithful supporters in southern Milwaukee late Monday night.

Walker said his opponents have run out of arguments because his reforms have worked. Unemployment has decreased, taxes have gone down, and the state now enjoys a budget surplus, Walker said.

"There are a lot of voters out there scratching their head, [asking] what is this recall about? Because it's certainly not about the things they said," Walker said.

Walker’s collective bargaining reforms have failed to catch on as a central issue in the election, and Democrats have pivoted to several other lines of attack, from Walker’s jobs record to an ongoing investigation into a former Walker staff member to Walker’s so-called "war on women."

There was even a false report, written by a far-left website and briefly circulated on the Internet over the weekend, claiming Walker had a child from a previous relationship.

Walker, only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall, has been the center of a political dogfight with national implications for almost a year and a half after he rolled back collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions.

Those reforms closed a $3.6 billion state budget gap, but they also put a target on Walker’s back. Democrats and unions gathered nearly a million signatures to force Tuesday’s recall election, which has since become the most expensive election in state history.

The election’s last independent poll, released Sunday, gives Walker a three-point lead over Barrett, 50 percent to 47 percent. That is Walker’s narrowest lead in the past several months, though the poll’s methodology has been questioned.

When a woman at the Walker rally shouted that Barrett "sucked," Walker was quick to draw a distinction between the two campaigns.

"This is about the facts. This is about substance. This is not about personality," Walker said. "We're not going to get down in the dirt and the gutter like they have been. We're going to talk about the truth and facts and move our state forward."

Both candidates cast their ballots early Tuesday morning and now will anxiously await, along with the rest of the Badger State, the election results sometime after polls close at 8 p.m. local time.