Have Republicans successfully “nationalized” local politics?

After 100,000+ people protested for his removal, Scott Walker looks to return in two weeks.

It is only 13 days until the recall battle in Wisconsin between incumbent Scott Walker and challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Honestly, I think it was a mistake by the Democrats not to pick a member of the Wisconsin State Senate, but oh well, Democrats usually pick the wrong candidates anyway.

If we were to look at this six months ago, we would assume that whoever the Democratic candidate was would easily defeat Walker. Yet if we look at the Real Clear Politics average of the polls in Wisconsin, Walker now has a 6% average lead. What led to this?

If there is one thing that has been lopsided during this election, it has been the money flowing into the campaign. The Milwaukee Journal has a great link regarding the money flowing into this “state” election. And if you look at the numbers (link here), the answer is pretty telling.

The first thing that one notices is that Scott Walker is out-raising Tom Barrett by a margin of 25 to 1. But even that isn’t the real issue here. What is more important is where the money is coming from. Of Barrett’s money, 87% of it comes from the State of Wisconsin. As for Walker, only 43% is coming from Wisconsin. Barrett is truly running “locally”, but the polls are showing that the out-of-state money is winning the battle.

So where does Walker’s money come from? $1.4 million has come from Florida. $1.7 million comes from Texas. California, Missouri, Minnesota, New York, and Illinois donors have combined to give Walker over $250,000 in each state (with most being over $1 million). This doesn’t even include the endless amount of money that 527s like FreedomWorks are throwing into the mix.

As for Barrett, the most money that he has raised from any state outside of Wisconsin is from Illinois, where he grabs a mere $53,000. The next biggest state was Nevada, with $15,000.

When 100,000 protesters took to the street of Madison in March of 2011, Democrats thought they already had the election won. Republicans, knowing that they won it the first time, knew they could capture it again. And since then, they have built up a war chest to take on whatever Democratic opponent comes their way. Granted, it was hard for any Democrat to raise money before the primary was over, but now the money still isn’t coming in.

Republicans learned something, nationalizing local elections helps. While Democrats have been looking at only the Presidential election, the RNC has been looking at this Wisconsin battle and making it a top priority. They even did this during a time when the clear nominee for President for their party wasn’t even hashed out yet. Yet the RNC continues to funnel money through the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Have the Democrats done this….nope!

So you might ask “why is this important?” There are four reasons.

First, nationalizing their state elections helps rally their base. The Republicans scare their rank-and-file members into thinking that “if something like this can happen in Wisconsin, it can happen in your state as well”. It is basically rehashing the “Domino Effect” for modern politics (which, ironically, Joe McCarthy was from Wisconsin).  Republicans frame this debate in such a way that this race in Wisconsin is just as important, even more so, than giving your money to a local candidate that is going to win by a large margin. The RNC has been hammering their donors (both individual and corporate) to give to this specific campaign.

The second reason for the importance of this is that the GOP is improving their targeting and using every resource outside of Wisconsin to target in on this race. One of the biggest flaws that the DNC had under Howard Dean was the whole “50 state strategy”. Therefore, Democrats piss away their money in races that they might lose, and lose by a large margin. And, I’m sorry, I went to school in Utah and spending any money there is an absolute waste of time! True, the 50-state plan might have yielded some short-term success. But almost all the seats that we won because of this strategy we lost two to four years later.

As for Republicans, they pool their money into the key races that they need to win in order to take control of whatever they want. Basically, the Republicans tell there people where to spend and where not to spend, and that is important.

But the third, and perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this is that if Walker wins, Wisconsin becomes a “toss up” state in the Presidential election. Prior to last week, Wisconsin looked pretty solid for President Obama. But if Walker wins, that changes. The thing about this recall election is that there aren’t really any unknowns. People know what Walker stands for and will vote for or against him on that record. And if he pulls off the win, then Romney knows that he can take Walker’s message of union-busting and pro-big businesses to Florida, Ohio and any other state that might matter in November. Basically, a Walker win could equate to an Obama defeat.

The fourth reason has to do with the Democrats and not the Republicans. The Democrats haven’t built a clear message in Wisconsin except “vote for Barrett because he isn’t Walker.” This didn’t help for Martha Coakley in Massachusetts in her race against Scott Brown. It won’t happen in Wisconsin against Walker. And, honestly, we are seeing the same thing with the Presidential race. The whole “we are going to win because they can’t win” philosophy in the Democratic Party usually leads to many Election Day “victory” parties becoming a disorganized group of people asking “what the hell happened”. No, never is an election “in the bag”, and Republicans always prove that.

Republicans have known all along that this one governor’s race in Wisconsin had huge implications. After thousands of signatures by Wisconsin citizens were submitted saying that they wanted Scott Walker kicked out of office, he could easily return in two weeks time. And the only way that this was possible by the Republicans was because they brought in their donors from all over the United States to contribute to Walker.

And, I hate to say this, but maybe Republicans are a little more into their causes than liberals and Democrats. For some reason, Democrats can really kick up a storm for a short period of time. The protests in March of last year is a pure example. With 100,000 people marching, if the recall election were held at that time, Walker would have been toast. But for the Republicans, they look at Democrats as “destroying their way of life”. That is how come they come up with crazy stuff like banning sharia law and other nonsense. Republicans continue to scare their electorate, which results in a long term commitment. Democrats just do the big protests at one time, then go back home and almost forget about things. Democrats prepare for the 100 meter, Republicans prepare for the marathon. That is why Walker is in the lead.

Yep, the one thing that Republicans always complain about, “nationalization”, they have done with their politics. Maybe the DNC will take note.

3 thoughts on “Have Republicans successfully “nationalized” local politics?”

  1. It is no different in Florida. Just ask Alex Sink. In fact those short term memory Democrats are getting behind a State Senator (Maria Sachs) who backs and votes with Republicans. You wonder why we lost the state. At least Burt and Wexler are now out of the picture.

  2. Below is what I wrote On May 20, 2012. However, the signature amount for the recall was over 1 million strong.

    Now I ask,, do those folks have amnesia? It’s apparent the republicans developed amnesia after the presidential
    primary……and came together for Romney…..Yes, the Dems are independent thinkers and don’t provide the support
    and money the way the republicans do…..but after the recall and the demonstrations; the election in Wisconsin is about the welfare of the people, regardless of party affiliation. I have no doubt that not all those folks who signed the petition were only Democrats……I hope for the sake of Wisconsin (and the nation) Ed Koch is wrong……

    CT, on May 20, 2012 at 11:05 am said: The podcast was definitely worth the time…hopefully your dialogue will open minds.
    Ed Koch said after running for mayor (third term) in New York City, The voters voted me out and now they must be punished….
    .What’s the slogan now, “The money has spoken” and now we must be screwed again, and again…Money talks, good people walk…..
    The voters of Wisconsin were successful for getting an enormous amount of signatures (by petition) to re call Gov. Scott Walker.
    The rest of the country was watching this unfold; and admired what the citizens of Wisconsin accomplished. Now, after all that,
    Scott Walker is leading Tom Barrett by about 6 %…..I don’t get it, I thought the people have spoken……or is it the money……

  3. Excellent piece- When Democrats run campaigns on national issues they open themselves up to all sorts of problems. Even on statewide issues it is problematic. We have allowed the Republicans to change the debate and take away all our advantages at the local level in Florida and beyond. Big problem.