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Wisconsin Recall Election: Disaster Looms for GOP

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The latest Marquette University Law School poll shows Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker seven points ahead of his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett among likely voters in Tuesday's recall election, prompting Walker and the state Republican Party to exuberate confidence of surviving the recall. Even the Republican National Committee is proclaiming that a Walker win has national repercussions as "lights out for Obama," suggesting that this critical swing state has turned red.

Political spin at its finest -- fully void of an actual examination of the facts. Let's take a closer look at what is bubbling underneath the Walker recall election.

First, the gubernatorial recall election is still far too close to call. Walker's campaign will spend about $30 million over the course of the recall election, compared to about $3.1 million by Barrett. These figures do not include the "independent" spending by outside groups -- estimated at about $21 million total -- with most of it coming from pro-Walker groups like the Club for Growth and the Republican Governors Association. By all accounts, Walker should be burying Barrett. But that is not the case, and for good reason. About three-fifths of Walker's campaign war chest has come from out-of-state. The bulk has come from just a few very large donations in excess of the $10,000 contribution limit from wealthy CEOs, such as $500,000 from Houston's Swift Boat founder Bob Perry, $250,000 from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Anderson and the same from Amway founder Richard DeVos of Florida.

Meanwhile, about 80 percent of Barrett's contributions have come from folks in Wisconsin, those who will be voting in the Wisconsin election. Due to a quirk in the state's campaign finance law, Barrett may accept only contributions within the $10,000 limit. (Walker could accept unlimited amounts from the time the recall petitions were taken out until the recall election was called -- a period that ran 4.5 months from Nov. 15 to March 30.)

More importantly, Walker already has spent the bulk of his campaign money. In the final days of the campaign, Barrett has just about the same amount of campaign funds ($1.5 million) to spend as Walker. Walker could not swamp Barrett by outspending him 10-to-1. It will be interesting to see what happens when the spending is relatively equal.

Second, the gubernatorial election is not the only race on the ballot on Tuesday. Four state Republican senators also are being challenged. The Wisconsin state senate is divided 16-16 between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans need lose only one of those senate seats and they lose control of the state senate -- a very likely prospect.

Third, while all this electioneering is going on, everyone seems to be overlooking that Walker may be the subject of a criminal probe. Whatever the outcome of the election, the prospect of scandal tainting the Republican leader and the state GOP in general, is right around the corner. Walker is smack dab in the middle of a John Doe investigation that has led to charges against three of his former aides while Walker served as Milwaukee County Executive. Officials are looking closely into an email exchange between Walker and another aide over a 2010 real estate deal. Walker knows the investigation is serious, spending about $160,000 so far on his defense fund.

So, the real landscape of the Wisconsin recall election is that the gubernatorial race is too close to call, despite Walker outspending his opponent 10-to-1; the Wisconsin Republican Party is likely to lose the state senate; and scandal from earlier official conduct and all this money may well cast a pall over the GOP in general. When Tuesday comes to an end, the ramifications for the Republican party in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., will be far from over.

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