Top Obama Officials Held Secret Scott Walker Recall Meeting In 2011: Report

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SCOTT WALKER RECALL
Top Obama campaign officials secretly met with Wisconsin Democrats and labor leaders in October 2011 about the push to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R). (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images) | Getty Images

As Democrats in Wisconsin were pushing an uphill effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) in 2011 and 2012, some activists were grumbling that President Barack Obama and his campaign were not more publicly involved.

According to a new book, there was hesitation among top Obama officials about the whole recall effort and the effect the recall could have on the president's reelection.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Jason Stein and Patrick Marley reveal in their new book, More Than They Bargained For, that Jim Messina and Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, Obama's campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, privately met with a group of Wisconsin Democrats and union leaders for three hours in October 2011 in Madison.

From their report:

Messina was skeptical of the recall. Correctly predicting Walker's coming fundraising success, Messina warned the group that a Republican had told him Walker's side could raise $60 million to $80 million. That would hurt Democrats in the recall and could hurt Obama's re-election effort in a battleground state.

According to participants, the Wisconsin group told Messina and his deputy that the recall would happen no matter what.

"The basic message to (Messina) was 'We have no way to stop this,'" one participant said. "He came to appreciate this train was leaving whether we liked it or not."

The Obama campaign did end up getting involved, although the president never visited the state to boost the effort. But former President Bill Clinton did go and stump for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) -- who ran unsuccessfully against Walker -- and the campaign also mobilized its grassroots activists to help get out the vote.

Still, perhaps sensing that the recall would not go Democrats' way, party leaders were consistently careful to separate what was happening in the recall with what was happening in the presidential race.

“I think, honestly, there aren’t going to be any repercussions,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in May on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers." "It's an election that's based in Wisconsin."

This prediction proved to be accurate, when Democrats lost the recall but won the presidential election.

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