In the final hours before the Wisconsin recall, President Barack Obama reiterated his support for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, over Twitter.
"It's Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I'm standing by Tom Barrett. He'd make an outstanding governor. -bo," Obama said in a tweet Monday evening.
The underwhelming show of solidarity follows weeks of speculation around why the president, who has been traveling around the country for a host of fundraisers as part of his reelection bid, did not stop in Wisconsin to campaign for Barrett.
Just last week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney mistakenly told reporters in the daily press briefing that Obama had not endorsed Barrett, when in fact he did on May 8. Carney later corrected his comments in a tweet after the Obama campaign issued a statement confirming the president's previous endorsement.
On Monday, Carney tried to downplay Obama's absence from Wisconsin amid the historic recall when pressed by reporters on the subject. "The president absolutely stands by Tom Barrett and hopes he prevails," Carney said. "The fact is the president has made clear all along his opposition to those who would take away workers' rights, to actions that would take away or diminish workers' rights, and he's also made clear his support for Tom Barrett."
At his final rally in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday, a reporter asked Barrett about Carney's statement that Obama is supporting Barrett.
"I didn't know that" he said that, said Barrett. "But it feels great. It feels good. I'm glad to have" the president's support.
But as voters headed to the polls, Walker seized on the issue in an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News. “It’s kind of confusing, I think, to voters here, because they wonder why won’t you come in?" he said. "Two years ago, the same person I’m running against now was my opponent back then and [Obama] came in and campaigned for the mayor at that point. I think it’s a sign there’s real concern."
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.
Below, more on the history of the Walker recall effort:
In 2010, a surge of Tea Party momentum and backlash against Democrats helped elect conservatives including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who became the state's first Republican governor since 2002. Walker promised to cut taxes and create 250,000 new jobs, but a deeper look into his past also showed a politician who had inflamed tensions with unions before. The Washington Post reports on his time as Milwaukee County Executive, during which the collective bargaining rights of unions already appeared to be one of his most ambitious targets: During his eight-year tenure in Milwaukee County, Walker never raised property taxes. He cut the county workforce by 20 percent, improved its bond rating and gave back hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own salary as part of the effort to trim spending. But he also saw his relations with local unions deteriorate. Union leaders say Walker never negotiated in good faith and had a singular solution to every budget problem: cut. Under his watch, the county privatized public jobs, laid off workers and placed others on furlough. [...] Walker argued that collective bargaining was the biggest hurdle to balancing the budget and that unions had little incentive to give ground because they almost always prevailed in arbitration. He said that the cuts he proposed were intended to prevent layoffs and accused union leaders of being uninterested in compromise.
After taking office, Walker announced a number of controversial proposals, including eliminating collective bargaining rights for state employees and reducing public employee benefits, as part of a "budget repair bill." He said the reforms were necessary to prevent the layoffs of thousands of workers. Facing anger from unions, Walker announced his readiness to mobilize the state's National Guard in response to any disruptions. The announcement was met with backlash by public sector workers across the state.
The fight over Walker's proposed budget was contentious, with Wisconsin Democratic state senators crossing state lines to Rockford, Ill. in an attempt to stall the vote. In March 2011, Walker signed the budget, significantly curtailing collective bargaining rights for union-affiliated public employees. Thousands of protesters gathered in Madison, and labor leaders and Democrats vowed to fight back.
In the months following his signing of the bill, Walker's opponents organized, announcing their intentions to recall the governor and his supporters. They erected a tent city and believed they'd won a surprise victory over a conservative state supreme court judge, before amended voting totals from one county reversed the victory. Walker continued to defend his policy but said he had made mistakes in the political execution. Correction: A previous version of this text inaccurately stated the final results of the Supreme Court race.
Wisconsin Democrats scored a victory in their attempt to unseat Republican state legislators when they defeated six "fake" Democrats running in the party's primaries. Four of the six Republicans targeted for recall held onto their seats in the general election.
Petitions to recall Walker and his lieutenant governor gathered nearly a million signatures each, far exceeding the 500,000 needed. Election officials ordered a recall election.
Democratic candidates are now fighting for the chance to face Walker in the recall election. Amanda Terkel reports: Recalling a sitting governor is no easy task; it's been done just twice in U.S. history. But while Republicans are amassing money and ground support in the next few months to fend off the opposition, Democrats are still figuring out who among them will be the strongest candidate to run against the governor. The process is pitting traditional allies against each other, as the candidates try to show off their pro-labor credentials while also making the case that they are best equipped to beat Walker in the general election. There are currently four Democratic candidates competing in the May primary. Former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett are considered the two frontrunners, with state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Secretary of State Doug La Follette also in the race.
After a tough primary, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett bested three other Democratic candidates in an early May primary. HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports: Barrett beat former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) in the Democratic primary. The Associated Press called the race for Barrett shortly before 10 p.m. Eastern time. Barrett's victory set up a rematch with Gov. Walker, who he lost to by about 5 percentage points in 2010.
HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) holds a narrow lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in the run up to Tuesday's recall election, according to the final poll on the race conducted by Public Policy Polling, a firm affiliated with the Democratic Party. PPP's automated, recorded-voice survey, conducted among 1,226 likely voters over the weekend, puts Walker at 50 percent support, 3 percentage points ahead of Barrett's 47 percent. Fifteen surveys on the recall election have been released over the past month, and while most have produced close results, all but one have given Walker the advantage. Independent polls have generally given Walker a bigger lead than the handful of publicly released internal polls sponsored by the Barrett campaign or its Democratic allies.
After a whirlwind day of voting that featured swarmed polling places around the state, media outlets called the race for Walker less than an hour after polls closed in the Badger State. Walker's lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, was also declared victorious in her recall contest.