"This was a mistake," said a critic of President Obama's decision not to campaign with Democratic challenger and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "The president should have been out there."
It wasn't a Republican or even a disgruntled Barrett supporter in Wisconsin, angry at the mayor's loss last night to GOP Gov. Scott Walker in the Badger State's closely-watched recall election. It was a national Democratic strategist and a top adviser to a pro-Obama super PAC, Paul Begala, giving an interview to CNN.
"I don't think it would have made the difference," Begala acknowledged. "But it's kind of like Thanksgiving at your in-laws. If you go, it doesn't guarantee it's going to be fun, but if you don't go there's going to be hell to pay." http://bit.ly/JKpGWO
And the Republican National Committee highlighted the president's absence in a message this morning from Chairman Reince Priebus, a Wisconsin native who also had a lot at stake in the race: "President Obama actively avoided Wisconsin in the recall. It's not like he wasn't in the area; he was in neighboring Minnesota and Illinois just last week. Yet all he offered Barrett was a tepid tweet Monday night - not exactly the sign of a fearless leader." http://bit.ly/zPFn29
Republicans, of course, would love to make last night all about Obama. It wasn't, of course, but that hasn't stopped Democrats - including those at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago - from scrambling to find a silver-lining in the results of last night's election in Wisconsin where Walker defeated Barrett by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin after out-spending him by millions.
"We are coming out of this effort with a stronger Democratic organization and more engaged supporters and volunteers," wrote the Obama campaign's Wisconsin state director, Trip Wellde, in a memo last night. "Just like the Senate recalls did last summer, this election has galvanized our field operation."
Exit polls showed that by a 52 to 43 percent margin Wisconsin voters said they'd support President Obama over Mitt Romney if the election were held today.
While Wisconsin, a state that the Obama campaign officials classify as a "tossup" on their 2012 map, didn't get a presidential visit during the recall, it certainly will between now and November.
ABC's Jonathan Karl, live from Milwaukee for "Good Morning America," weighs in on last night's results: http://abcn.ws/M7GHLi
-WHY WISCONSIN WAS ALL ABOUT THE ECONOMY: The most important number ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR AMY WALTER saw last night was this: 53 percent of voters in Wisconsin approved of the way that Walker has created jobs in the state. Walker didn't run as the guy who got rid of collective bargaining in the state of Wisconsin. Instead, he ran as a reformer. He ran as the guy who got rid of the state deficit and got the Wisconsin economy back on track. Democrats argued that Walker was corrupt, was trying to destroy the middle class and was rolling in out of state cash to fund his campaign against his recall. But when one side says the sky is falling and voters don't see it dropping on their head, they tend to not believe it.
This is the real take away from this election. When voters feel good about the job that you are doing on the economy, they are likely to reward you. The exit polls here showed that voters thought Obama would do a better job than Romney on "improving the economy" (44-36 percent) and helping the middle class (47-35 percent). Even so, the fact that just 44 percent of Wisconsin voters believe the incumbent president will do a better job on the economy than a Republican they don't know all that well should give the folks in Chicago serious pause. They have to hope that this is Obama's floor, not his ceiling. http://abcn.ws/MgAo7B
-ABC's RICK KLEIN: Everyone's awake now. The recall results are shaking both sides out of what's left of any political slumber, and Democrats have to be scared of what they're waking up to. Scott Walker hung on despite all those protests and anger and the national money that flowed toward his ouster. And Republicans helped him with a unified party message that put them on offense even as they played defense, far more united in making a case for fiscal austerity than anything their rivals could muster.
FROM THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN:
-"I congratulate Scott Walker on his victory in Wisconsin," Mitt Romney said in a statement last night. "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. 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."
-And a Romney campaign aide e-mails The Note: "This is a disaster for Obama and clearly puts Wisconsin in play. Governor Walker has wildly exceeded expectations. It's not even close. The Obama campaign never really thought they were going to have to play in Wisco. Republicans are extremely energized out there."
WALKER MAKES HISTORY. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel leads: "Scott Walker on Tuesday became the first governor in the country's history to survive a recall election, besting his 2010 rival in a contest that broke spending records and captured the nation's attention." http://bit.ly/JUJ08z
BARRETT SLAPPED. ABC's Matthew Jaffe reports: Shortly after 10:00pm local time, Barrett took the stage at his election night rally in downtown Milwaukee. By then, networks had projected Walker as the winner of the recall race. "I just got off the phone with Gov. Walker and congratulated him on his victory tonight," Barrett said, prompting boos from the crowd. … Afterwards, as Barrett greeted his supporters, a woman approached him and reportedly asked, "Can I slap you?" Barrett replied that he would prefer that she hugged him, so he leaned down-anticipating a hug-but instead got the slap that she had requested. In the video of the incident, Barrett's head jerks back from the slap. The woman was upset that Barrett was conceding while people were still trying to vote.
EXIT POLLS: SILVER LINING FOR OBAMA. ABC's Gary Langer reports: Even with Scott Walker's success, Barack Obama won some bragging rights in the Wisconsin governor's recall election: Voters said they favored Obama over Mitt Romney in November's presidential race by a 9-point margin, with advantages for Obama both on handling the economy and aiding the middle class. Wisconsin voters by 52-43 percent said they'd support Obama over Romney if the election were today, the ABC News exit poll found, by 43-37 percent picked Obama to do a better job than Romney handling the economy and by 47-36 percent preferred the president on "helping the middle class." http://abcn.ws/LnjszD
LABOR TURNS OUT, VOTES MOSTLY FOR BARRETT. From ABC's Gary Langer: "Barrett lost to Walker when the two faced off in 2010. One boost for Barrett this year came from turnout among union voters: One-third of voters said they were from union households, up from 26 percent two years ago, and those voters favored Barrett by a broad 62-37 percent. It was about the same margin as Barrett won among union household voters in 2010, although this time there were more of them." http://abcn.ws/LnjszD
MORE EXIT POLLS: UNIONS NARROWLY POPULAR, WALKER WINS ON JOBS. More from ABC's Gary Langer: Barely more than half of the state's voters, 51 percent, said they have a favorable impression of public employee unions … Voters were closely divided on Walker's handling of collective bargaining, 51 percent approving, 48 percent disapproving; there was a similar split specifically on the state law limiting the ability of government workers to bargain collectively. Both results included unusually high levels of strong sentiment on both sides. Women were notably more critical of Walker on the union issue than were men. … Another result pointed to what may have been a key advantage for Walker: Voters approved rather than disapproved of his performance creating jobs, by 53-46 percent. http://abcn.ws/LnjszD
TOTAL RECALL: A 2010 REPLAY. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert: "In the end, after all the ground-breaking rancor and searing conflict and mind-boggling money and crushing attention, Scott Walker's 2012 victory for governor looked a lot like his 2010 victory for governor. Just as he did against Democrat Tom Barrett in 2010: Walker won men and lost women. He lost voters under 30 and won every other age group. He won independents and lost moderates. He lost college grads and won voters without a college degree. He lost union households badly. He lost lower-income voters and won everyone else. He won almost all Republicans and lost almost all Democrats. He won rural and suburban voters and lost urban voters. The same two candidates meet in two elections, separated by 19 months and a consuming political inferno." http://bit.ly/dcD7pY
AN OPENING FOR ROMNEY. The Associated Press writes: "The Wisconsin election tested voter attitudes toward Walker's aggressive governing style as well as a law that ended collective bargaining for most public employees and teachers. 'Gov. Romney has an opportunity … to come in between now and Nov. 6 and make the case that he's willing to make those same sort of tough decisions,' Walker told Fox News Channel on the eve of his victory. In the coming days, national Republicans and Democrats alike will re-evaluate the Wisconsin political landscape. In setting their presidential campaign strategies, they will take into consideration the state's 6.7 percent unemployment rate-lower than the national average-the heavy chunk of independent-minded voters and the partisan atmosphere that led to the effort to recall Walker." http://n.pr/LqvKn1
WALKER PLANS POST-RECALL BBQ. From the AP: "Gov. Scott Walker, fresh from becoming the nation's first governor to survive a recall election, wants to go about mending Wisconsin's political divide in an egalitarian way: over brats and beer. … 'It's time to put our differences aside and find ways to work together to move Wisconsin forward,' Walker said in an interview minutes after his victory. 'I think it's important to fix things, but it's also important to make sure we talk about it and involve people in the process.' Walker planned to invite all members of the Legislature to meet as soon as next week over burgers, brats and 'maybe a little bit of good Wisconsin beer.' 'The first step is just bringing people together and figuring out some way if we can thaw the ice,' he said. http://bit.ly/MiLsRT
WALKER 2016? Reuters' James B. Kelleher writes: "'With the financial support he has, he's certainly in a position to go beyond Wisconsin in four years' time,' said Kent Redfield, a political analyst at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Walker, 44, traveled around the nation making speeches that often drew protesters, and he raised about 60 percent of his campaign funds from out of state. He got hefty contributions from conservative donors such as Walmart heiress Christy Walton and industrialists David and Charles Koch. His victory was the latest twist in career that began at age 22, when he lost a race to represent one of Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods." http://reut.rs/L93uIT
WHO CONTROLS THE SENATE? The AP reports: "It's unclear whether Democrats or Republicans won control of the Wisconsin Senate in Tuesday's recalls. Democrats upset with Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip public workers of their union rights pushed the governor, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (KLAY'-fish) and three GOP state senators into recalls. The Democrats also were hoping to pick up an open Senate seat in the recalls. The chamber stood evenly divided between the two parties going into Tuesday's elections. Democrats needed to win just one Senate race to gain a one-seat majority. Republicans needed to win all four." http://fxn.ws/LzCnWk
HOW IT'S PLAYING.
Front-page print headlines on Walker's win …
-New York Times: "Governor Wins Wisconsin Vote in Recall Drive … Setback for Democrats … Walker Survives Bid to Remove Him After Union Standoff" http://nyti.ms/Lyhz1q
-Wall Street Journal: "Recall Bid Fails in Wisconsin … Gov. Scott Walker's Win Caps Fiery Battle, Deals Public-Sector Unions a Blow" http://on.wsj.com/KKCLDe
-Washington Post: "Wis. Governor Walker Survives Recall Election … Long Lines and a Close Vote … Race Tests Both Parties' November Strategies" http://wapo.st/L6Ymol
-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Walker Wins Historic Recall … Governor Beats Barrett, Becomes 1st to Win Recall" http://bit.ly/JUJ08z
-Lacrosse Tribune: "Recall Fails … Walker Withstands Vote to Oust Governor … Plans Bipartisan Barbecue to Heal Divided State" http://bit.ly/LpM6QF
-Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Walker Wins … Governor Called Winner an Hour After Polls Close" http://gbpg.net/JKhJko
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
ROMNEY EMAIL HACKED. From ABC's Emily Friedman: Investigators are working to determine whether the email of the presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney was hacked, a campaign spokeswoman confirmed to ABC News. The reports of a potential hacking were first reported by the blog Gawker, which posted a story today that said a tipster had come to them with the information after a Wall Street Journal story today revealed Romney's Hotmail email address. The Wall Street Journal had published portions of emails Romney sent from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org for a story about how the former Massachusetts governor defended the individual mandate in the Massachusetts health care plan. http://abcn.ws/Ng9m5V
CA UNDECIDED ON CIGARETTE TAX. From ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield: Proposition 29, California's statewide referendum to raise the tax on cigarettes by $1 per by pack, appears to have California voters evenly divided. With 21,985 out of 21,993 precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Californians are split down the middle - with a narrow majority opposing the referendum- 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent. … It's estimated that if passed the tax would raise $735 million per year, according to the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst's Office. That amount will likely decrease in time, as more smokers are expected to quit the habit because of the cost increase. However, that money would not go towards eliminating some of the state's $16 billion deficit. Instead, the proceeds would fund cancer research- an aspect of the law which has drawn some criticism. http://abcn.ws/L9qw0f
BILL CLINTON: EXTEND THE TAX CUTS, FOR NOW. ABC's Amy Bingham and Rick Klein report on the former president's interview with CNBC: "What I think we need to do is find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now and then deal with what's necessary in the long term debt-reduction plans as soon as they can, which presumably would be after the election," Clinton said in an interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo on Tuesday. When asked if that meant extending the Bush tax cuts, Clinton said "I don't have any problem with extending all of it now." … This isn't the first time a nuanced interview from President Clinton has led to reports that he breaks from President Obama on an issue. Clinton had to backtrack after he said earlier this week that Obama's GOP rival Mitt Romney's "sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold" for being president. A cornerstone of Obama's campaign has been attacking Romney's business cred. http://abcn.ws/LohATo
CLINTON EXPLAINS. A statement released by Clinton's spokesman after the interview: "Two questions have been raised regarding President Clinton's interview on CNBC today. First, on extending the Bush tax cuts, as President Clinton has said many times before, he supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again. In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election."
ANN ROMNEY THANKS BILL CLINTON FOR THE COMPLIMENT. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: While campaigning for her husband in Miami Tuesday, Ann Romney mentioned President Bill Clinton's compliment of Mitt Romney last week, while she tried to woo voters in the battleground state. "I saw him always just being as Bill Clinton said, a 'stellar' businessman. I'm so glad we heard that from someone else besides me," she said, slightly misquoting the former president. "Because he was, in every way it was stellar and it was amazing how much confidence people put in him, and he really had something that I think is unique that we sometimes forget how important it is and that is good judgment." Clinton actually used the word "sterling" to describe Mitt Romney's business career, not stellar - but still quite the compliment for the competition. http://abcn.ws/LxETwc
NEW ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: IS VIRGINIA THE MOST INTERESTING STATE IN 2012? ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein break down the general election map: Why Virginia? It is a state that went for Republicans for years, but in 2008, Virginia went for Barack Obama by a margin of 5 points and a 200,000 vote margin. If Obama can hold onto Virginia, the electoral college math makes it almost impossible for Mitt Romney to make up that margin, ABC's Rick Klein points out. http://yhoo.it/MeDw7p
VA'S SENATE RACE TOO CLOSE TO CALL. New polling numbers from Quinnipiac: "In Virginia's U.S. Senate race, two former governors, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen, are locked in a year-long, too-close-to-call race with 44 percent for Kaine and 43 percent for Allen." http://bit.ly/MivNBQ
DEMS VS. DEMS: PASCRELL BEATS ROTHMAN IN NJ. In a struggle between two New Jersey Democrats, Rep. Bill Pascrell has survived. The 75-year-old Pascrell defeated 59-year-old Rep. Steve Rothman on Tuesday, after outspending Rothman $1.9 million to $1.3 million, according to FEC filings through May 16. Pascrell led Rothman 60 percent to 40 percent. The race pitted two Democratic presidents against each other - sort of. Bill Clinton campaigned for Pascrell on Friday, while President Obama met with Rothman at the White House. "When he thought your interests were my policies, he was effective for me. When he didn't on rare occasions, he was effective for you instead of me," Clinton told Pascrell's supporters at a rally in Paterson, N.J. Rothman endorsed Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, while Pascrell endorsed Hillary Clinton. http://abcn.ws/LydCts
MORE DEMS VS. DEMS: SHERMAN TOPS BERMAN. Rep. Sherman (D-CA) topped Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) 42% to 32% in their top-two primary for California's newly drawn 30th Congressional District in the Los Angeles area. Both will appear on the ballot in November, thanks to California's primary system, in which the top to candidates advance, regardless of party. The race is a caricature of legislative redistricting's political consequences. After the 2010 Census and redistricting process, California's new legislative map forced these two relatively longstanding-and politically similar-Democrats to run against each other for a newly drawn Los Angeles-area district, after holding neighboring congressional seats and voting with each other often on Democratic legislation. The two candidates had spent a combined $5.7 million campaigning against each other, as of May 16.
OBAMA'S GOLD RUSH. From ABC's Devin Dwyer: President Obama heads west today for yet another round of star-studded, high-dollar campaign fundraisers in California, the state that's been most generous to his re-election campaign. Obama's trip will be his fourth to the Golden State this year - tying New York as his most visited state outside the greater Washington, D.C., area. The president was most recently in the San Jose, Calif., area two weeks ago. … On his 24-hour visit Wednesday into Thursday, Obama will attend five events - two in San Francisco and three in Los Angeles - that will include more hobnobbing with the rich and famous. The largest event, an LGBT supporters gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, includes talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and "Glee" singer Darren Criss. The events will raise at least $5.4 million combined for the Obama Victory Fund, according to figures provided by the Obama campaign. http://abcn.ws/L9r486
MARIJUANA ON THE BALLOT: HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO CO, WA. After the failure of California's Proposition 19 initiative in 2010, marijuana legalizers are optimistic about two new ballot measures in Colorado and Washington. At least three states are likely to vote on marijuana-legalization initiatives in 2012, but the measures in Colorado and Washington - two states with legalized medical pot and some permissive local laws - may stand the best chances of succeeding, having already qualified for the respective November ballots. "These are going to be serious campaigns," said Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the national drug-policy reform group Drug Policy Alliance. "Each one has a decent shot of becoming the first state in the country to embrace this policy change." Backers of Washington's I-502 initiative, to tax and regulate the production and sale of marijuana statewide, have already raised $1.2 million since the beginning of their signature drive in 2011. In Colorado, the campaign for a similar initiative says it has attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars through Marijuana Policy Project, a national pot-legalization group. http://abcn.ws/Lr0G6r
PRO-LIFE BILL TARGETS THE DISTRICT. The Hill's Debbie Siegelbaum reports: "House Republicans are continuing their efforts to restrict abortions in the District of Columbia, announcing plans to introduce a new anti-abortion rights bill in Congress. "On May 31, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) wrote on his Facebook page that he plans to author the District of Columbia Respect for Life and Conscience Act of 2012. According to the posting, the bill 'requires minors in D.C. to receive their parents' consent before having an abortion, prohibits non-doctors from performing abortions, and provides conscience protections for individuals and health care facilities in D.C. that refuse to perform abortions.'" http://bit.ly/L9Dnzq
RABBI SEX THERAPIST WINS NJ PRIMARY. TalkingPointsMemo's Benjy Sarlin reports: "Rabbi. Celebrity confidant. Sex therapist. Voters in New Jersey's 9th Congressional District will have a chance to elect a representative with all those qualifications and more after Shmuley Boteach won the Republican primary Tuesday night. Boteach is known for his role as "spiritual adviser" to the late superstar Michael Jackson. … As an author, however, it's hardly his only notable release. He also put out a series of Judaic sex advice books, with titles like Kosher Sex, The Kosher Sutra, and Kosher Adultery: Seduce and Sin With Your Spouse. One of his causes behind his campaign is a desire to spice up the Republican party's puritanical reputation with some wholesome family sex." http://bit.ly/Kbf1dU
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX: From two Friends Of The Note.
-From a Democrat with an eye on New Mexico where former Republican Rep. Heather Wilson will face off against Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich for an open U.S. Senate seat:"According to Wilson's personal financial disclosure, she served as a board member for Crossroads GPS from August 2010 to February 2011. As a Rove protégé and former member of Crossroads board, it will be interesting to see Crossroads involvement there."
-A GOP operative e-mails at 11:22 p.m. ET: "American Future Fund released a new video on Gov. Walker's resounding win in the Wisconsin recall election. Thought you might find it of interest." WATCH: http://bit.ly/KggWcv
VEEP BEAT: Our daily look at all the action on the veepstakes front, brought to you by ABC's Arlette Saenz ( @ArletteSaenz ):
WALKER WIN BOOSTS RGA & McDONNELL: As head of the Republican Governors Association, Gov. Bob McDonnell led the RGA's efforts to support Wis. Gov. Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election, dispatching governors, whose names have also been floated as potential VP contenders, to campaign with him in Wisconsin and pouring millions of dollars into the race. As the Washington Examiner notes, Walker's win in Wisconsin gave McDonnell "bragging rights" over his DGA counterpart, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and served as a "a dress rehearsal for nearly a dozen gubernatorial contests this fall." http://bit.ly/KPwhDf
JINDAL SAYS WALKER WIN IS BAD SIGN FOR DEMS: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who stumped for Walker last month, said Tuesday night that Walker's win in a Democratic stronghold is a bad signal for President Obama's chances in the fall and argued that Ohio and Michigan will now be tighter contests, the Washington Times reported. "A lot of the experts were predicting a late night in Milwaukee. Instead it looks like it's going to be a late night in Chicago," Jindal said on Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. http://bit.ly/LpStUd
WILL ROMNEY PICK A COMBATIVE VP? Mitt Romney's campaign has unleashed aggressive attacks on President Obama since the start of the general election, and as The Hill's Christian Heinze noted, this combative style might push Romney to select a running mate with attack dog qualities. "Romney's combative first month could hint that he's looking to another archetype for vice president - the pugilistic warrior who can go one on one with Joe Biden in a shouting match" Heinze wrote. "The theory goes like this: A vice president is traditionally called upon to deliver the toughest attacks, while the nominee takes the relative high road. But if Romney himself is batting the president around like a piñata, why would he pick someone more discreet, safe and mellow for vice president? In short, a more aggressive campaign might warrant a more aggressive pick that complements, rather than contradicts, Romney's confrontational style." http://bit.ly/L9EAqv
McDONNELL APPROVAL RATING: A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday morning found Gov. Bob McDonnell's approval rating in Virginia at 53 percent, a figure that matched his lowest approval rating in March.
@KLSoltis : Everyone criticizing the exits: they aren't supposed to be used raw without precinct weighting. They're SUPPOSED to "evolve".
@AriFleischer : Walker won by a bigger margin in 2012 than in 10. If voters turn out like they did in 10, O loses easily and Senate will go R
-President Obama holds fundraisers in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
-Mitt Romney holds a campaign event this afternoon in San Antonio as well as three fundraisers in Texas.
-Michelle Obama will speak to local grassroots volunteers at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
-Ann Romney will attend event at the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association in Ocala, Florida.
ABC's Joanna Suarez
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV