Next Tuesday, Wisconsin together with Maryland and the District of Columbia holds its primary. Mitt Romney is leading Rick Santorum and Wisconsin should further consolidate his hold on the Republican nomination.
Wisconsin voters, however, are more preoccupied by another campaign – the campaign to recall first-term governor Scott Walker.
Walker, in a bid to reduce the Badger State's deficit and viewing runaway public service employee pensions as a major cause of fiscal hemorrhage, got a law passed - by the Republican-controlled legislature - curtailing the collective bargaining rights of public service unions.
The legislation was marked by tumultuous demonstrations against the bill in the state capital at Madison. An attempt by the Democrats to block the bill in the legislature, by having their representatives abscond from the state, thus denying the Republicans a legal quorum, failed..
Once the bill was passed, the Democrats began to employ the recall mechanism.
Wisconsin became once again the cradle of the Progressive Movement that targeted corrupt machine politics. One device instituted by the Progressives to ensure good government was to allow voters, after getting a minimum number of signatures on a petition, to stage a recall election in the middle of an elected official's term in a bid to have that official ousted.
A recall is not a yes or no vote on the official, but involves an election between him and a rival candidate..
The clash between Scott Walker and the unions activates all the hot buttons in the partisan divide. Conservatives view Walker as a hero who is prepared to tackle the issue, while Liberals view him as a villain who wishes to turn the clock back to the days when workers were defenseless. Appropriately, tons of money is coming from out-of-state to pay for the campaigning and the advertising blitzes.
Walker will fight his corner while the Democrats may have to stage a primary to determine who their nominee will be.
The Obama administration, trying to rally all parts of the Obama coalition, has sent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and former White House Chief of Staff, to nearby Milwaukee in an attempt to persuade Mayor Tom Barrett to run against Walker.
Mitt Romney, aware of Walker's iconic status amongst conservatives, issued a staunch defense of Walker: “Governor Walker is, in my opinion, an excellent governor, and I believe that he is right to stand up for the citizens of Wisconsin, and to insist that those people who are working in the public sector unions have rights to effect their wages, but that these benefits and retiree benefits have fallen out of line with the capacity of the state to pay them, and so I support the governor in his effort to reign in the excesses that have permeated the public sector union and government negotiations over the years,”
Although he has little chance of winning the Democratic nomination, it is perhaps appropriate that Secretary of State Doug La Follette has entered the race in an attempt to stop the divisive policies of Governor Walker. His great-grandfather was the brother of Bob La Follette, a leader of the Wisconsin Progressive movement, a governor, a US senator and a third-party candidate for president in 1924.
It was Fighting Bob and his Progressive friends who originally gave Wisconsin the recall mechanism.