Democrats and labor leaders mounted a vicious political attack in Wisconsin in an attempt to oust Gov. Scott Walker, the lieutenant governor and four Republican senators.
As of Wednesday evening, the Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and two Republican senators had turned back the recall effort, while a Republican claimed the third Senate seat that had been vacated. A fourth Senate seat was apparently in the Democrats' win column, though it was still too close to call Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, Walker is safe until the end of his term, as are the other GOP incumbents who were challenged. And even if the Democrats claim the final Senate seat and gain control of the Senate, Republicans in the state are still firmly in control of the governor's office and Assembly.
Democratic control of the Wisconsin Senate could lead to gridlock for the state government there, but it also could lead to a short-lived symbolic victory of sorts. If unofficial returns hold up in District 21 and Democratic challenger John Lehman beats Sen. Van Wanggaard, Republicans will have an opportunity to reclaim the seat in the regular November elections, which would return them to control of the entire legislative body when it convenes in January.
Going into Tuesday, the election was being touted by many as an early indication of what voters might see in November when President Barack Obama squares off against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Not surprisingly, those who pushed the recall effort are backing away from that assessment as hard as they can.
Walker came under fire from Democrats and labor over policies he campaigned on and implemented, including stripping state workers of their union rights. Once the effort got under way, Walker opponents tried to co-op job creation into the mix. Walker had promised a quarter-million new jobs when he ran in 2010, though numbers indicate that only 33,000 news jobs have been created during his tenure.
The odds were not in Walker's favor, with the only two previous recall efforts of U.S. governors -- California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921 -- having both been successful. Walker, who was facing Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett again, however, saw his margin of victory actually expand. He defeated Barrett by 7 percentage points Tuesday, better than his 5.8 percentage point win two years ago.
There was some discussion as to whether Obama would have made up the difference had he campaigned for Barrett. The president's support was, essentially, summed up in a tweet sent out Monday -- "It's Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I'm standing by Tom Barrett. He'd make an outstanding governor. -bo"
Barrett, a strong supporter of Obama in 2008, no doubt hoped for a little more than those 112 characters of support, 28 short of the maximum for a Twitter message.
Most likely, the Obama campaign read the tea leaves before Tuesday and did not want the president associated with a loss in a state that was firmly in Obama's column in 2008, but which looks like it may be in play for Republicans this year. And in what could be a razor-thin margin of victory, Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes may well be critical in determining who will be sitting in the Oval Office after Inauguration Day.