Salena Zito

Unions and the left are far outspending pro-business interests and the right on recall ads.

Democrats are wise to see more is at stake than a single state’s senate majority and a new political map that could unseat two freshmen Republican congressmen. They know this is the first battle of 2012 – their version of 2010’s surprise election of Scott Brown, R-Mass., who won a blue-state U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Ted Kennedy.

Republicans won in Massachusetts because conservatives around the country poured money into Brown's campaign; he raised a million bucks a day and couldn't spend it all.

His opponent, Democrat Margaret Coakley, was strapped and forced to beg money from Washington lobbyists in the last 10 days of the race, which Brown quickly used in a commercial against her.

Massachusetts Democrats got ambushed. Will Republicans let that happen to them in Wisconsin?

Make no mistake, this will have a chilling effect on every other state dealing with public-employee collective bargaining or pensions in the next two years – which is just about all of them.

If Walker and other governors cannot tame public pensions and union contracts, you will see tax hikes across the country enacted under freshmen GOP governors in the next few years. It is simple math.

If Republicans don't engage with real cash in Wisconsin, they could lose the state senate in advance of redistricting this summer, embolden unions, and scare hell out of Republicans in statehouses everywhere.

Walker may have won on policy – yet Republicans could face massive losses nationally if they don’t win those state recalls.

Just because the Democrats came back from Illinois doesn’t mean the left surrendered.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.