The level of campaign spending has been unprecedented, especially considering it is a recall effort. Spending was estimated at about $28 million from outside groups on both sides of the aisle and about $5 million spent by the candidates themselves, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign officials estimated the spending between the two sides was even, but the group will do a full accounting of spending after the election and will have a clearer picture of whether the totals were even.
Both sides were so invested financially and on the ground because of the national message a victory on either side will send.
The Tea Party Express went on a nine-city, get-out-the-vote tour in Wisconsin that ended with a rally Monday night in the Green Bay area.
Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer was clear about the national fallout if the Republicans were not successful at keeping the state legislature. The movement has generated "excited crowds," she said, but a loss today would give Democrats the "courage" to wage similar efforts in other states.
"If these conservatives don't have the support to do the right thing in Wisconsin, then this will happen in states around the country," Kremer said. "In Wisconsin, the Republicans and Gov. Walker were able to balance the budget in such a short time, stimulate job growth, and put people back to work."
Kelly Steele, a spokesman for We are Wisconsin, a political action committee made up of labor, progressive and other liberal groups that are working to win the recall elections, said "enthusiasm here is as high as it's been" on their side.
He agreed that although their fight began with the protests after Walker moved to end collective bargaining rights for all public workers except police and firefighters, it has spread to other states.
"One thing Wisconsin indicates is when working families and communities are under attack, they will stand up and fight for the values they expect for their government, and their voices are going to be heard," Steele said, pointing out that all six Republicans won their seats in 2008 when Obama won the state by 14 points and that "none of these are easy districts."
Ross of Wispolitics.com agreed that although the fight was born out of Wisconsin issues, it is a "dry run" for both national Democrats and Republicans for 2012.
"Barack Obama can't win the presidency in 2011 without Wisconsin," Ross said of Wisconsin's having gone Democratic every presidential election since 1976, except for Reagan's victory in 1984.
"People are motivated and, in turn, a more friendly environment [in the state legislature] can go a ways for them," he said. "It's a dry run where they can micro-target voters, and get engaged ahead of next fall."
There are two more recall elections next week. Two Democratic senators are facing recall Aug. 16.