WASHINGTON – America’s political class was Wednesday learning a newlesson in the power of money – and the possibly decisive impact ofunfettered millions of dollars on November’s battle for the WhiteHouse. All eyes were on Wisconsin, for years a Democratic-leaningbattleground, now a test bed for a new era of unlimited cash in USpolitics, where a union-busting Republican governor Tuesdayrepelled an ouster bid. Scott Walker’s triumph in a recall election over Democrat TomBarrett will be picked apart for hints of how the state, and thenation, will go when President Barack Obama meets Mitt Romney inNovember. While political consultants, campaign cash moguls and punditspoured over the smoldering tea leaves from Wisconsin, one thing wascertain: the race was awash in cash. The vote was a key test of a Supreme Court ruling tearing downlimits on campaign spending by corporations, unions, other groupsand rich individuals.
“The big picture here, is that the Citizens United court casehas opened the floodgates for really wealthy donors, conservativedonors,” said Clyde Wilcox, a political science professor atGeorgetown University. Such donors “see the chance to actually reshape public policyby just unlimited spending.” Walker won the recall by 53 percent to 46 percent but the moneyrace was not even close. A stunning $63.5 million was splashed onthe election, nearly double the amount spent in the samegubernatorial match-up two years ago. The Center for Public Integrity said Walker outspent his foe bymore than seven to one after raising more than 30 million dollarsfor his campaign, much from out of state, backed by more than $16million in spending by outside groups. By comparison, Milwaukee mayor Barrett raised $3.9 million andfared poorly with backing from independent groups.
Big Walker donors included millionaires, billionaires and out ofstate business titans, with deep pockets sure to be tapped again inNovember. The contest is an example of “what will likely continue tohappen with regard to campaign spending in the post-Citizens Unitedworld,” said Kathleen Dolan, a political scientist at the University ofWisconsin. Robert Borosage of the liberal Campaign for America’s future saidmoney not only floods airwaves with ads, it helps candidatesorganize. “Wisconsin is a sterling example of what elections will be:the power of mobilized right-wing and corporate money against thepower of mobilized people.” Therein may lay the most salient warning for Obama’s campaign. Welding Rotator
November is shaping up as a clash between the president’s complexturnout and motivation machine and the power of unlimited corporatecash bet on Romney. Ad blitzes by pro-Romney groups known as super-PACs helped destroythe former Massachusetts governor’s Republican foes and are nowtargeting Obama. Obama meanwhile may fall short of his 2008 fundraising bonanza of$750 million, meaning he will likely be outspent. The Politico website last week shook the election race with areport that spending by Republican-backing groups in 2012 couldreach $1 billion – and Romney will raise hundreds of thousands ofdollars more. Hardfacing Machine
Walker’s win also left unions questioning whether their own fundingmuscle on behalf of Democrats will be swamped by corporate, andconservative cash. Obama will not however be outspent seven-to-one like Walker and theWhite House said the spending orgy in Wisconsin distorted the truepicture. “You had was an incumbent governor in a repeat election … inwhich he outspent his challenger by a magnitude of seven or eightto one with an enormous amount of outside corporate money and hugedonations,” said spokesman Jay Carney. Welding Positioners Manufacturer
Other caveats may also be in order. Despite Walker’s triumph, Obama is in decent shape in Wisconsin,part of a midwestern path – one of several routes – to 270electoral votes he needs to reclaim the White House. Obama led Romney in Wisconsin exit polls Tuesday by seven points.Recent opinion polls also have him up in a state he won by 14points in 2008, Despite the explosion of cash in Wisconsin, the recall looked a lotlike the 2010 race when Walker won, beat Barrett by 52 percent to46 percent, a similar margin to Tuesday’s race. That raises the question of how many votes the big money shifted? The presidential campaigns meanwhile are already buying out time inkey television markets for an autumn of negative attacks. That poses another query : will bloated super-PAC spending simplybe diluted in an already saturated market? And for all the ads, the election may turn on the question of theeconomy, Obama’s efforts to rescue it and Romney’s claims theincumbent has failed.
Character judgments made after party convention speeches andpresidential debates in October may also play an outsize role indeciding the race.