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Democratic heavyweights are descending on Wisconsin. While they are working to ensure that their party’s candidate, Mary Burke, wins the gubernatorial race against Republican incumbent Scott Walker, their Wisconsin campaign stumps could have implications far beyond this governor’s race.
Former President Bill Clinton is in Milwaukee today; President Barack Obama will be there Wednesday. Michelle Obama has been to the state twice, and there’s still time for Hillary Clinton makes a visit before November 4th.
With the race so close between Walker and Burke, these Democratic heavy hitters are making the usual strategic stops to do what needs to be done for every Democrat in a close race: motivate the base, especially young and African American voters.
But Democrats and their loyal labor union allies really, really want to unseat Walker whose dramatic cuts to public sector unions has made him a top target in this year’s midterm elections.
Democrats want “to do what (they) can to unseat a guy who has done serious damage to key democratic priorities and constituencies,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley said, adding that if he lost, “it would be sweet revenge.” Walker has already survived a recall election spurred by his policies. And there are no key senate races in the state this year, making this race the main event in Wisconsin.
There’s another reason Democrats are pushing so hard to defeat Walker: He is the only possible 2016 contender facing statewide election this year. If he can’t win in a polarized purple state after implementing a bold Republican agenda, it would be difficult to take him seriously as a presidential contender. Donors would look elsewhere, especially in a crowded GOP field.
“Walker’s political future … for 2016 hinges on his reelection in Wisconsin,” Amber Wichowsky, assistant professor of Political Science at Marquette University, said.
For the Clinton’s, it’s also personal. With Hillary Clinton considering a run, an opportunity to take out a presidential contender before the presidential campaign has even started, would make the road to the White House just a tad easier. And a Burke win would double the number of women Democratic governors (assuming New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan wins reelection.)
But if Walker wins, that means he would have won three elections – 2010 election, 2012 recall and 2014 re-election – in four years, giving Walker a solid standing for higher office.
To ensure a Walker defeat, Clinton and Obama are traveling to Milwaukee to motivate African American and young voters to the polls – important voting blocks for Democrats that vote in higher propensity in presidential election years.
In 2012, President Obama won Wisconsin and African Americans make up 7 percent of the vote and voters under the age of 25 made up 12 percent of the vote. In 2010, when Obama wasn’t on the ballot and Walker won his gubernatorial race, both African Americans and young voter turnout decreased by nearly half: 4 percent of the vote came from African Americans and 7 percent from young voters.
“A small increase of turnout in those groups could have an impact on the outcome,” Wichowsky said about the Walker-Burke race. “It’s about trying to boost enthusiasm among more marginal voters.”