Last night’s recall election in Wisconsin saw a victory for Governor Scott Walker and a defeat of his challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. As the most expensive election in Wisconsin State history, this recall effort has been claimed as proof that the money overpowers the will of voters.
Some members of the liberal media maintain that last night’s outcome reflects the money poured into the election by special interests rather than the interests of Wisconsin voters.
In response to NBC’s announcement of Walker as the projected winner, Schultz on the Rachel Maddow Show said that “in many respects, [Walker’s victory] is to be expected considering how much money was thrown into this race.” Further, he expressed that this outcome would demonstrate to Republicans that “if they can out fund their opponent, they’ve got a good chance of winning.”
Money, Schultz explained, allows for candidates to lie. He insisted that Walker supporters fabricated claims that the Wisconsin budget experienced a surplus, adding that “when you’ve got the money and you can buy the message, you can convince a lot of people that you’re on the right side of the issue.”
On Chris Matthews three hours earlier before the stream of election results pronouncing Walker’s victory, however, Schultz lauded this election as an indication of the “passion of the people and the power of the middle class.” His subsequent deflation suggests that perhaps he is incapable of conceding that Walker’s reelection was a manifestation of the “passion of the people” of Wisconsin.
Many other media figures covering the election acknowledged the fairness of the campaign expenditures and the validity of voice of Wisconsin voters. Many of the members of MSNBC’s Morning Joe denied money as the deciding factor in the election. Mika Brzezinski insisted that “the voters put [Walker] back in office.” Willie Geist disagreed with the blame that many Democrats have placed on the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United instead reasoning that “the rules are the same for both Republicans and Democrats.”
FOX News featured Amos Snead and former Representative Joe Sestak to discuss the factors that lead to Walker’s win in Wisconsin. Both guests agreed that Walker’s victory reflects the will of Wisconsin voters. Stesak argued:
“…They [,Wisconsin voters,] validated their verdict of two years ago. I may disagree with that verdict, but you know what? They said to the outside interest groups and the national parties on both sides: ‘hey we made our decisions, now let us stay the course.’ On the one hand, one side poured tons of money into it, and yet you saw on the exit polling, 9 out of 10 Wisconsin voters said “We made up our mind. When it became seven to one, money put in didn’t sway us.” And if all you have is money behind your ideology, it won’t last in the long term…”
In fact, data from the polls suggest that voters last night remained consistent with their behavior in the gubernatorial election of 2010. The chart below from Journal Sentinal shows how little change there was in Walker’s performance with different kinds of voters between the two elections. According to exit polls, only 8% of voters decided their vote in the last few days of the election. The makeup of the electorate was roughly the same with the exception that Union households made up a third rather than a quarter of the electorate.
Perhaps the most unconvincing argument that money had the upper hand in the Badger State recall: “Republicans had much deeper pockets than did Democrats”. A Wisconsin State Journal analysis of the money that flowed into all state campaigns and political groups since Walker took office “suggests backers of the two major political parties have competed on an unusually level playing field.” The newspaper’s report shows that the total raised by all committees between Jan. 1, 2011, and April 23, 2012 comes to at least $77.1 million with Democratic candidates and Democratic-leaning groups raising at least $35 million over that period while Republican candidates and GOP-leaning groups raised at least $36.9 million.
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