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Caliendo: Wisconsin Recall Outcome Depends On Mobilization

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Walker, Barrett Support Signs

Signs supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and opponent Tom Barrett in the recall election Tuesday. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Both Republicans and Democrats are watching the gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin very closely, as it could have implications for the presidential race.

Political analyst Stephen Caliendo says regardless of the outcome, the election has ensured that worker’s rights will have to be on the agenda during the presidential race. And as for the outcome of the race between controversial Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Caliendo says it will likely all depend on mobilization, and the resulting voter turnout.

Caliendo says there is a lesson to be learned for elected officials who challenge workers’ rights, regardless of whether Walker gets to keep his job.

“From a political science perspective, I think we already know what we’re going to know, which is that if you’re going to try to take away rights of workers, there’s going to be a backlash,” Caliendo said. “Now, the outcome today matters in terms of how it’s actually going to play out, and I think mobilization comes into play there – that is, how many people are going to get out to vote. But I think Republican governors are going to have to move very carefully if they’re going to do this, because they’re going to understand there’s going to be pushback.”

Meanwhile, while President Barack Obama and his campaign have not involved themselves directly in the Wisconsin race, workers’ rights will inevitably be on the agenda during the presidential race now, Caliendo says.

“I think that the most important thing is that this is on the agenda now,” he said. “There’s going to have to be some discussion about the rights of workers; where the place for unions are in the United States in the 21st century, particularly during economic tough times.”

And given that there is not much of a swing vote, turnout will be crucial, Caliendo said.

“The recent polls show that there are very few undecided voters. Folks have made up their minds for whom they want to cast a ballot,” Caliendo said. “The difference is now whether they’re going to show up.”

If Walker is reelected, Caliendo says it will help catapult his image farther into the national spotlight. But he is already widely popular on the far right regardless, Caliendo points out.

“Even if he doesn’t win, he’s already become the darling of the Tea Party, and lots of folks on the far right are heralding him as an up-and-coming player in Republican politics, so no matter what happens, I think he has a future there,” Caliendo said.

Walker has been cast as both a villain and a hero ever since he pushed through a bill to end virtually all collective bargaining rights for unionized state employees last year.

Two recent polls have shown Walker leading Barrett by margins of three to seven percent. But those leads are within the margin of error for recent polls, meaning the race could be a dead heat.

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