Republicans also argued the result is a positive sign for Mitt Romney's hopes of winning the Badger State in November. Romney, in a statement shortly after the race was called, called the race a referendum for conservative fiscal policies and a rebuke to the labor movement.
"Governor Walker has demonstrated over the past year what sound fiscal policies can do to turn an economy around, and I believe that in November voters across the country will demonstrate that they want the same in Washington, D.C," Romney said. "Tonight's results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin. Governor Walker has shown that citizens and taxpayers can fight back -- and prevail - against the runaway government costs imposed by labor bosses."
But the exit poll out of Wisconsin carried encouraging news for Obama, who avoided involving himself in the recall battle. According to an analysis from ABC News, recall voters said they favored Obama over Romney by 11 points on Tuesday.
Walker's move to remove collective bargaining for public employee unions shortly after taking office ignited a firestorm of anger on the left, leading to months of protests at the state Capitol and the eventual effort to remove Walker from office. Recall organizers turned in more than one million signatures to force a recall election, and Barrett emerged from a contested Democratic primary to set up a rematch with the governor.
During the recall campaign, the issue of collective bargaining faded into the background as Walker and Barrett argued over state job numbers and exchanged charges of ethics violations. With the state deeply polarized, the two sides spent millions of dollars motivating their bases and wooing a small sliver of undecided voters, shattering previous spending records for a Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign in the process.
Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also won her recall election over Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, the head of a state firefighters' union
Walker will face reelection in 2014.