(MILWAUKEE) — The November duel for the White House between President Obama and Mitt Romney is five months away, but the battleground state of Wisconsin may provide a preview Tuesday of what is to come when voters head to the polls to vote on whether to recall controversial Gov. Scott Walker.
Walker, a Republican who only came into office 18 months ago, has come under fire for stripping most public unions of their collective bargaining rights in an effort to cut the state’s $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Furious with Walker’s plan, his opponents occupied the State Capitol in Madison last winter and collected around a million votes in their bid to oust the governor, well more than the 540,000 they needed to force a recall vote.
Now, Walker has to defeat his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, if he is to hang on to his job.
Viewed as a test of how far politicians can go to fight special interests during a time of widespread budget problems, the Walker recall fight has drawn the national spotlight — especially since Wisconsin is a key state in the race for the Oval Office.
“Collective bargaining would only make it more difficult to balance the budget. We are moving things forward,” Walker said in an interview Monday on FOX Business Network. “Beyond Wisconsin, why many of my fellow reform-minded governors are here in the state of Wisconsin helping us out, is they understand this is a sign about whether or not elected officials have the courage to take on these tough issues.”
Republican governors like Chris Christie of New Jersey, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have all visited the Badger State to boost Walker’s chances, but Barrett received some help of his own last Friday when a bigger political star than any of the GOP politicians came to Milwaukee on his behalf: former President Bill Clinton, who told voters that they faced a choice between “people who want to work together to solve problems and people who want to divide and conquer.”
While the recall election may foreshadow what lies ahead this fall when Obama and Romney duke it out, neither of them came to Wisconsin to support Barrett or Walker.
Walker claimed Monday that Obama’s decision not to help the Barrett campaign in Wisconsin was “a sign there is real concern” within the White House about Barrett’s chances.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the Wisconsin race is “unique” and Obama has outlined where he stands.
“The fact is the president has made clear all along his opposition to those who would take away workers’ rights, to actions that would take away or diminish workers’ rights. And he’s also made clear his support for Tom Barrett,” Carney said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Theodore Schleifer, CNN
Eugene Scott, CNN
Stephen Collinson and Eric Bradner, CNN