Obama MIA in Wisconsin

President Obama took the politically expedient and cowardly approach of skirting the Wisconsin recall election, placing his party’s standard-bearer, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, out on a very short limb. That limb snapped on Tuesday.

Despite millions spent by the unions, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker crushed Barrett by more than nine points in the most lopsided gubernatorial election in recent years, becoming the first governor to survive a recall in U.S. history. More importantly, it points to President Obama’s greatest weakness: Independents are siding with Republicans and he cannot be re-elected without substantial Independent support.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

The president chose to sit out the Wisconsin recall election out of fear that associating with a potential loss, creating a rift with Wisconsin Democrats and his union buddies. President Obama’s only involvement with the recall election was a tweet the evening before the election:

It’s Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I’m standing by Tom Barrett. He’d make an outstanding governor. -bo

Polls before the Wisconsin recall election showed Walker had a small lead and exit polls suggested the results would be very close, yet the outcome was a landslide. Apparently a tweet to supporters does nothing to move people that had well over a year to assess Walker’s performance.

There was one key piece of information that did come out of the exit polls: nearly two-thirds of all voters believed a recall election is only warranted for gross misconduct by a governor. Walker’s recall was based solely on him following through on promises he made during the 2010 election.

The Wisconsin unions and Democrats argued that Walker had “unfairly” limited public employee union bargaining rights and forced them to pay eight percent towards their health care and retirement programs. Wouldn’t we all like to contribute just eight percent of our income while receiving a lavish retirement and health insurance? Prior to Walker arriving on the scene Wisconsin public employees contributed zero to their health insurance or pension programs.

Wisconsin: Success Beats Rhetoric

President Obama apparently doesn’t understand that success breeds support; by every measure, Scott Walker’s reforms have demonstrably changed the downward course of the Wisconsin economy. When Walker faces re-election in 2014 he’ll be in a much better position to answer the question, “are you better off than you were four years ago?” than the president this fall.

Statistics showed that Wisconsin unions were losing membership and influence at a startling rate leading up to the recall election, echoing a trend nationwide.

President Obama has hitched his wagon to a tired old horse and it may be too late for him to change rides. Will the Obama Campaign learn from the lessons of Wisconsin? Not likely. Much as in the mid-term elections, the president seems tone-deaf and unable to make a Bill Clinton shift towards the center.

Presidential re-elections are hard to predict, but history tells us that presidents unable to shift with public sentiment will spend the last few months of their terms planning a presidential library. Given President Obama’s cast-in-stone view of government’s role he probably should start shopping for a site.