Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says President Barack Obama’s political machine and special interest groups are pulling out all the stops to defeat him in the pivotal June 5 recall election — a race that could determine the future of many efforts around the country to curb runaway government spending.
“I think you’ll see the most radical elements on the left are going to be involved in this recall, because again for them, this is so critically important,” Walker told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
“I think they understand that when we win, this will send a powerful message not just to other Republican governors, but to even some of the discerning Democrats who hold governorships and even mayoral positions across the country.”
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Asked during the Newsmax.TV interview if he believes President Obama and the White House are working to defeat him, Walker replied: “Oh, I think Organizing for America, which obviously is connected to the president’s political machine, groups like MoveOn.org, and others are involved.”
Organizing for America (OFA) is the ongoing campaign arm created by Obama shortly before he took office. It superseded his Obama for America campaign organization, which boasted an email list of over 13 million names.
Due to laws intended to separate politics and governance, Obama directed OFA to work under the aegis of the Democratic National Committee — which in turn is controlled by the incumbent president.
Walker did not specify OFA’s involvement in the looming recall election. But during the protests that virtually shut down Wisconsin’s government in February 2011 following Walker’s decision to rein in public-sector collective bargaining, OFA reportedly organized phone banks and bused protesters to the state capital.
If he loses the June 5 recall election, Walker would be just the third governor in U.S. history to be recalled. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators are subject to recall elections as well.
But a GOP victory in June would signal a “huge success” and could have national implications in November, he suggested.
“I think the message it sends is if you’re a candidate who can not only talk about [entitlement reform] but who can legitimately make the case that that’s what you’ll do when you’re in office, that there will be a majority of voters in our state, and hopefully around the country, who will want to put people like that in office,” he said.
A recent PPP poll showed Walker with a 50 to 45 percent edge over his leading Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He also holds a 50 to 43 percent advantage over his other potential rival, Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive who is the unions’ favorite. The Democratic primary will be held May 8.
In his Newsmax interview, Walker predicted that heand his fellow Republicans will prevail despite the tens of millions of dollars in union money flooding into the state. He has estimated big labor will invest as much as $60 million in its bid to defeat him.
By any measure, the outside money pouring into Wisconsin’s recall showdown — which is seen as an important test of President Obama’s ability to keep Wisconsin in the blue column in November — is staggering.
Consider that the previous record for campaign expenditures in Wisconsin was about $37 million. This was for the 2010 gubernatorial race that saw Walker defeat Barrett.
The estimated price tag for the recall will shatter that record, perhaps going as high as $80 million, according to Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign government watchdog group.
McCabe called the epic battle “a shock to the system” of Wisconsin voters, who are unaccustomed to the national political spotlight.
“We’ve never seen these amounts of money raised and spent in state elections in Wisconsin before,” said McCabe, who expects Walker to marginally outspend Democrats and the unions. “We’ve also never seen these levels of outside interference. The amount of money flowing from outside into Wisconsin is just unprecedented. We don’t have anything in our past that you could compare this too.”
PACs and activist groups on both sides are gearing up for a battle royale. Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks have been active on the right. The heavy hitter on the left so far is We Are Wisconsin PAC, a union-oriented organization that has spent $10.7 million so far, according to McCabe.
McCabe said his organization was able to determine that about $10.1 million of We Are Wisconsin’s money came from just three national unions that are headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he is “highly concerned” the democratic process is being warped by the outside money pouring into the campaign in what may shape up as a replay of an election held just two years ago.
“There’s certainly a percentage of even Democrats who think this recall process just is being abused,” Johnson told Newsmax. “This is only the third recall of a governor in U.S. history. A recall really should be saved for a true malfeasance in office, not policy disagreements.
“I’m hoping a majority of Wisconsinites agree with that, and just put an end to this process,” Johnson said. “Let’s respect elections, and the results of elections, and if you have a problem with the policies of your elected officials, let’s take care of it at the next time they’re up for a regularly scheduled election.
Other highlights from the exclusive Newsmax interview with Walker:
- He says he’s not surprised that unions are almost as angry at his leading opponent, Tom Barrett, as they are at him. Barrett’s cardinal sin: He used the tools provided in Walker’s controversial reforms to save enough money to avoid some 300 layoffs in Milwaukee County. Walker said that in his eight years as Milwaukee County executive “unions told me all the time they’d rather have the layoffs than making reasonable changes in things like benefits.”
- Walker said “clearly our reforms,” including property-tax caps, are why the median property tax bill in Wisconsin has dropped for the first time in 12 years. “It’s really just one more concrete example that the things we said would happen are happening,” he said.
- He described as “mindboggling” that both Barrett and Falk have voiced support for repealing the property-tax caps his administration instituted that stopped the spiraling tax hikes. “To me that’s nothing more than just trying to pander to the big-government unions that somehow have come to dominate this primary election,” said Walker.
- Walker blasted WEAC, the Wisconsin teachers union, for pulling the results of a teacher survey off its website because it showed “more positive results than they’ve had in the past.” Walker said the union was embarrassed that the survey indicated teachers see conditions as improving because it “completely undermines their argument about the status of schools in the state of Wisconsin.”
- Despite the solid poll numbers of late, the Wisconsin governor said, Republicans cannot afford to become complacent. He said he has a “big-time concern about the kind of money being poured in here and the kind of lies that will be spread on the airwaves.”
Walker laughed off suggestions that he is an emerging GOP rock star.
“I’ve got two high school sons who would beg to differ with anybody calling me anything related to rock star,” he told Newsmax. “They see me at Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival in Milwaukee, and jokingly say I go to the old fogey stage.”
See other exclusive excerpts from the Scott Walker interview:
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