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Monday, 04 June 2012 20:33

In Wisconsin recall, it’s TV ad spending vs. boots on the ground

Written by  (Posted by) Felicia Sonmez and Rachel Weiner | The Washington Post
In Wisconsin recall, it’s TV ad spending vs. boots on the ground

Tomorrow’s Wisconsin recall election is being viewed as the second-most important race this year, a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) move to curtail public workers’ collective bargaining rights and a harbinger of whether Republicans have a shot at turning the Badger State red this fall.

But the recall is significant for one other reason: It serves as a proxy for the national battle between Democrats’ much-touted ground organization and Republicans’ fundraising advantage.

With Walker ahead in the polls and leading Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) in the money race by more than 7 to 1—and with GOP-aligned outside groups far outspending their counterparts across the aisle—Democrats maintain that their shot at victory depends on a far superior get-out-the-vote operation buoyed in large part by organized labor.

At the Madison Labor Temple, a staging location for the union-backed coalition We Are Wisconsin, organizers Monday morning were sending out volunteers to remind Democrats to vote.

“It’s been really amazing to see so many people coming out and going door to door, which is not very comfortable for most people,” said Fiona Cahill, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She went canvassing Monday in Madison with her mother Kay. “But people are coming out because it’s something they really believe in,” she added.

We Are Wisconsin Executive Director Kristen Crowell said in an interview Monday that the group is on target to knock on 1.4 million doors and make 1.5 million phone calls. The group—which has concentrated its efforts on the ground game while the Democratic Governors Association has focused largely on TV ads—has about 50,000 volunteers and has spent $2.8 million on its field operation since last month’s Democratic primary.

“From day one there’s been a strong, strong commitment to fund and prioritize the field campaign,” she said. “We’ve always recognized that it will come down to turnout and our ability to connect to voters at the door.”

Over the weekend, Barrett’s camp had dispatched more than 10,000 volunteers, knocking on about 948,000 doors and making nearly 890,000 phone calls. Spokesman Phillip Walzak said that those numbers were expected to “more than double” by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is predicting turnout of 60 to 65 percent—more than in the 2010 election, when turnout was about 50 percent, but less than the 69 percent turnout rate during the 2008 presidential race.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, more than $63.5 million has been spent by candidates and independent groups on the recall to date, making it the state’s most expensive election.

A little more than half of that amount—about $34.5 million—is composed of contributions to the two candidates, with Walker taking the majority ($30.5 million compared to Barrett’s $4 million).

The remaining $30 million or so in expenditures has been made by outside organizations, according to the independent tracking group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. And the bulk of that $30 million is spending by GOP-aligned groups on behalf of Walker.

The tea party group Americans for Prosperity has spent more than $10 million on the race. And the Republican Governors Association has spent nearly that amount. [Read complete article at Washington Post]

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