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Lessons From Wisconsin

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Wisconsin held an election to recall its governor last week. The governor retained his office. Ever since, pundits, commentators and other media hangers-on have been spouting off about what it means for Democrats, Republicans, unions, liberals, conservatives, President Obama, Mitt Romney, the Tea Party, national policy, political advertising, campaign contributions, electoral strategy, special interests and everything but the kitchen sink.

Hey, the Toronto Sun even ran an article called "Lessons in Wisconsin for Toronto." What would that be? Don't go ice-fishing when the temperature is above freezing?

Despite the full-court media press, it's truly amazing how little these "experts" have learned from the recall election. It's certainly not obvious in their columns and commentaries. Well, I live in Wisconsin. And there are lessons to be learned. So let me lay out the top five for you.

1. A recall election is a great way to boost a state's economy.

Throughout the recall campaign there was a consistent dispute as to how many jobs were created during the administration of Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker. What's not in dispute is that out-of-state donors contributed millions to Walker's campaign. That's seventeen million dollars now floating around Wisconsin -- buying ads, drinks, meals, consultants' time, printing services, etc. -- that wasn't there before. That ain't chump change, especially when you consider the multiplier effect. A recall election can be a money magnet for out-of-state funds. States with few tourist attractions should keep this in mind when calculating revenue enhancers.

2. Don't try to recall the big cheese.

As governor, Scott Walker is the big cheese in a state filled with cheese-heads. But this rule isn't limited to Wisconsin. Only two governors have ever been successfully recalled in the entire history of the United States. So recalling a governor has never had much chance of success. Even more important, most citizens frown on recall elections if used only to change state policy. According to one Wisconsin poll, 60 percent of voters felt recalls should be limited only to situations where an officeholder was guilty of "official misconduct."

3. A recall should not be a rematch.

In 2010, Republican Scott Walker won. His challenger, Democrat Tom Barrett, received 46 percent. Last week, in the recall election, Walker received 53 percent of the vote and Barrett received 46 percent. Well, duh! Is this really a big surprise? According to the 2010 census, the state of Wisconsin has more than 5.5 million residents. Why couldn't the Democrats find a different opponent to challenge Walker in the recall election? As Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

4. Swing voters don't matter as much as you think.

Lots of pundits are emphasizing the importance of swing voters in the Wisconsin recall election. Presumably they're referring to the 38 percent of American voters who consider themselves independent. (The percentage also holds true for Wisconsin.) But wait a minute. Only 57 percent of eligible voters actually voted in the Wisconsin recall election. So if you're looking for the "swing voters," it would be 38 percent of 57 percent or 22 percent. Contrast that with the number of eligible voters who didn't vote at all -- 43 percent. This non-voting bloc is almost twice as big as the swing vote! Why not concentrate on these non-voters instead of wasting time with voters who swing? This is especially true in Wisconsin where the state dance is the polka!

5. The Packers rule.

This is always a lesson from Wisconsin.

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