President Obama wasn't on the ballot in Wisconsin, but Gov. Scott Walker's decisive victory in last night's gubernatorial recall is a stinging blow to his prospects for a second term. The re-election was a telltale sign that the conservative base is as energized as ever, that the Democratic GOTV efforts may not be as stellar as advertised, and that the Democratic-leaning "blue wall" Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania will be very much in play this November.
Walker won by a bigger margin than he did in 2010, and with more overall votes. He carried 38 percent of union households - a slight improvement from his 2010 midterm tally -- a strikingly strong number given how he's been cast as the villain of labor. It's a sign of the cultural divide between national Democrats and blue-collar whites, one that is particularly acute for the president.
Obama's team is taking consolation in the fact that exit polling showed him leading Mitt Romney, 51 to 44 percent. But that's hardly good news: with near-presidential level turnout (and notably higher level of union turnout), Obama is running five points behind his 2008 performance. Replicate that dropoff across the board, and all the key swing states flip to Mitt Romney.
For all of Obama's political talent, he's been a major drag on his party since taking office. In 2009, Republicans won two hotly-contested gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, with the victors (Chris Christie/Bob McDonnell) now on Romney's vice-presidential short list. During the heat of the health care debate in 2010, Scott Brown picked up Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in deep blue Massachusetts. Later that year, Republicans regained control of the House, by winning a whopping 63 seats while picking up six Senate seats. And now, Walker wins the recall by a bigger margin than in the 2010 election, which was already a watershed year for Wisconsin Republicans.