Tonight is a big night for the Wisconsin GOP. Its embattled governor not only held onto his seat – the first governor in history to survive a recall vote – but will likely win it by a wider margin than he did in 2010.
Republicans see Walker’s win as proof that taking on the political establishment – in this case the public sector unions – is not only not fatal but a winning formula. But as both parties should know by now, reading too much into any result – especially reading it as some sort of mandate – is dangerous.
The most important number that I saw tonight 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 takeaway 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.