Where Dems Fear to Tread

National Democrats quarantine Wisconsin in lead-up to recall

May 31, 2012

National Democrats are distancing themselves from the Badger State as Wisconsin’s recall election approaches.

Incumbent Republican governor Scott Walker has campaigned with such national GOP luminaries as Govs. Bobby Jindal (R., La.), Nikki Haley (R., S.C.), Chris Christie (R., N.J.), and Bob McDonnell (R., Va.). However, Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, has not been able to bring similar firepower to bear.

"I don't think national Democrats want to touch Wisconsin with a 10-foot pole," said Wisconsin GOP spokesman Ben Sparks in an interview with the Free Beacon.

Walker enjoys a seven-point lead over Barrett in the latest public polling. That is consistent with the last several months of polling, which has shown Walker holding a five-point lead. Walker’s strength has been attributed to increasing support for Walker's policies and voter fatigue with recalls.

Barrett has struggled to attract high-profile national surrogates to campaign with him on the stump.

On May 19, former Obama green jobs czar and 9/11 Truther Van Jones held a "Rebuild The Dream" rally in Milwaukee. The rally, attended by "hundreds," included a performance by rapper Prophetic, whose politically charged verses touch on such subjects as "bitches who ride me."

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz made two brief appearances Wednesday in support of Barrett. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, head of the Democratic Governors Association, plans to stump for Barrett.

Wasserman Schultz told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Wednesday that former President Bill Clinton "is in the process of sorting out his schedule before next Tuesday" to come to Wisconsin.

Former Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who was defeated in 2010, also appeared at a Barrett fundraiser Wednesday night.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Minneapolis, which sits along the border of Wisconsin, on Friday, but has no plans to visit the Badger State.

White House press secretary Jay Carney distanced the administration from Barrett’s campaign at Wednesday’s briefing.

"You might ask the campaign," Carney said when asked if Obama had endorsed Barrett. "Not that I’m aware of, but I’ll take the question."

The Obama campaign endorsed Barrett on May 8.

During an MSNBC interview Wednesday morning, Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tried to downplay the significance of the recall effort, saying it had "nothing to do" with the presidential election.

"This is a gubernatorial race with a guy who was recalled, and a, you know, a challenger trying to get him out of office," Cutter said. "It has nothing to do with President Obama at the top of the ticket. And it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with Mitt Romney at the top of the Republican ticket. So, no, I don’t think, you know, there may be some that will, you know, predict that it means doom for us in Wisconsin in the fall elections, but I think they’ll be proven wrong."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus taunted Democrats' reluctance to go all-in on supporting the recall in a Wednesday conference call.

"Judging from Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s token appearance in the state today, and Stephanie Cutter’s comments on MSNBC today, apparently [Obama for America] and the DNC are all in," Priebus said. "We’re looking forward to seeing what their top-notch ground game will accomplish in November. Democrats have been all over the map on Tom Barrett and this Wisconsin recall."

State Democrats have groused about a lack of support from the national party. But Wasserman Schultz dismissed claims the DNC was abandoning the recall effort in an interview with Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"To date, we've put over $1.5 million into this state to make sure that we could both get the recall on the ballot, help with the signature-gathering effort, coordinate with the grassroots on the ground," she told the paper.

GOP official Sparks called Wasserman Schultz's appearance "nothing but a PR stunt to appeal to a disaffected liberal base."

"The Democrats have seen the polls we've all seen," Sparks said. "In 2008, Obama won Wisconsin with 56 percent of the vote. The Washington Post is now listing that race as a toss-up. So clearly this recall effort has had an adverse effect on the Democrats' chances in November."

Meanwhile, the RNC announced a coordinated voter-outreach effort on Wednesday among its state parties in Wisconsin, lllinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.

On the conference call, Priebus, who is a former chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said the GOP knows the state better than any other.

"I don’t think there’s a state in the country where the GOP knows the voters better than Wisconsin," Priebus said. "We’ve been analyzing this state for two and a half years. Contacting two and a half million voters, having all of that consumer data, the Prosser election, the state legislative recall challenges—you have a pattern here of success that is going to make it easier to win here in November."

The DNC, Barrett's campaign, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin did not respond to requests for comment.