In 2012, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker survived a furious recall effort engineered by the state’s enraged liberals and Democrats, who accused the Republican of gutting protections for public-sector employees. Now one of those public employees, education superintendent Tony Evers, has narrowly defeated Walker for governor, in a race decided by some 30,000 votes (Walker has not yet conceded, and one of his advisers, Brian Reisinger, indicated that the results could be contested.)
It was a vindication for Wisconsin’s historically powerful but recently cowed left, which watched as Walker won re-election in 2014. The state also proved crucial to Donald Trump’s prospects in the 2016 presidential election.
Ultimately, the governor could not overcome what has been described as “Walker fatigue,” or the historic unpopularity of Trump himself. As one Democratic political strategist explained to Politico in September, “I don’t think this is about Democratic enthusiasm in Madison and Milwaukee, it’s about Democratic enthusiasm and a backlash to Trump and Walker everywhere in Wisconsin.”
Evers received the endorsement of former President Barack Obama, who won Wisconsin in both of his runs for the White House. Evers ran a solid if unexciting campaign predicated on increasing some taxes and repealing certain tax credits. But his main asset may have been that his name was not Scott Walker.
Although his 2016 presidential bid was hapless and brief, many believe that Walker has ambitions beyond the confines of the state capitol in Madison. Tuesday evening, then, proved a sobering check. Charlie Sykes, the Milwaukee-based conservative commentator, said before the votes in Wisconsin were tallied that, were Walker to lose, it would be a remarkable turnaround for a famously resilient conservative: “He survived recalls, he survived protests, but he couldn’t survive Trump in 2018.”
Trump campaigned in Wisconsin with Walker late last month. As he did throughout the congressional campaign, the president tried to instill fear in his supporters: “This will be the election of the caravans, Kavanaugh, law and order, tax cuts and common sense,” he said. But at least in Wisconsin, the scare tactics didn’t work.
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