It's still possible for the Democrats and unions to pull off a victory if they are more successful at voter turnout than the Republicans. Unions are more than willing to bend the rules when it comes to spending union dues to get out non-union voters. The state can expect a huge influx of out-of-state union staff to work on getting out the vote -- they're already there in big numbers.
And it's likely that the Democrats will revert to some old tried-and-true tactics to get unlikely voters to the polls. In 2000, some Democratic operatives handed out cigarettes to homeless people for voting. This year, both sides have been accused of offering people food in return for voting early in the recall election. And so-called "walking around money" -- actual cash surreptitiously passed to voters, which is illegal -- is a problem with a long history in politics.
One advantage Walker may have, however, is that early voting -- once touted as a boon to get more disadvantaged, Democratic-leaning voters to participate -- hasn't always worked out that way. It's true that Democratic operatives can visit nursing homes and "help" elderly voters to fill out their mail-in ballots or other places, like homeless shelters, where they're more likely to get extra votes for Democratic candidates who promise more social benefits. But making voting somewhat easier has also made it possible for busy, gainfully employed or more affluent retired people to participate in higher numbers, which favors the GOP.
If Walker does survive the recall election June 5, it will put the state of Wisconsin in political play for the GOP in the presidential election. It seemed unlikely that Wisconsin, which went for President Obama by 14 points in 2008, would be a tossup this year. But the Republican base has been energized by the unions' attempt to oust Walker. Independents, and even some fiscally conservative Democrats, may also jump ship from Obama in the fall. If so, the electoral map looks better for Mitt Romney, which is why some in the Obama campaign are worried that their friends in the labor movement may have overreached.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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