CHICAGO (CBS) — Political analyst Stephen Caliendo says controversial Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the recall election Tuesday does not mean doom for President Barack Obama’s reelection hopes – although it does reflect an ongoing change in how organized labor is perceived.
With nearly all precincts reporting, Walker had won 53 percent of the vote, to 46 percent for Barrett. The move for the recall election was spurred when Walker moved to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights away from the state’s unionized government workers, in what he said was motivated by a need to balance the state’s budget.
Caliendo, a political science professor at North Central College in Naperville, says the apparent vote against public employee unions is reflective of a change in the perception of organized labor that has been in progress for more than 30 years.
“It dates back at least to 1981, when Ronald Reagan threatened to fire the air traffic controllers (for striking), and so, I looked at my students, and they don’t have an understanding of labor unions as sort of the bastions of holding onto the middle class, because they think about them as corrupt, and as institutions that have been outdated,” Caliendo said, “and I think exit polls last night showed that about 30 percent of union workers voted for Scott Walker yesterday, and so that narrative has taken hold.”
But despite the decisive victory for Walker, exit polls still showed Wisconsin is poised to go Republican in the presidential election. In fact, exit polls showed the state would go for President Barack Obama if that election were held today.
“There’s a difference between how folks look at local elections and state elections and how they vote for president. Part of it is the ability to connect with voters. I think that Mitt Romney is going to have a harder time connecting with middle class Wisconsin voters than Scott Walker does, for instance, and so it’s still a blue state, for the most part,” Caliendo said. “I mean, Democrats can still count on Wisconsin as a state. But last night has to make them a little bit nervous.”
To keep the state in the Democratic camp, Obama needs to look toward making the economy stronger from the national perspective, Caliendo said.
“He’ll be able to connect with folks. He’ll spend time up there,” he said. “This is not a write-off for the Obama campaign, for sure.”
Caliendo added that it was also smart of Obama to refrain from involvement in the Wisconsin recall election, “although if you ask the Democrats in Wisconsin, they’d say they probably wish he would have stopped by.”