A politician can’t appear to quit on an election. Even John McCain, in his own way, kept right on going until the bitter end in 2008. Mike Dukakis went on a non-stop, 48-hour, multi-state tour in the final days before the 1998 vote. If you don’t keep fighting, your supporters give up, too — and then a defeat turns into a rout.
On the other hand, a sitting President has only so much political capital to spend. He must spend it wisely. Now we close in on the Wisconsin recall election, which looks increasingly like Governor Scott Walker is going to, well, walk away with. So President Obama has, wisely, chosen to sit this one out:
Last year, when angry protesters filled the streets of Madison, Wis., denouncing Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to curtail some union collective bargaining powers, President Obama was eager to associate himself with the union cause. “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions,” Obama told a Milwaukee TV reporter in February 2011.
Now, it’s just days until voters decide whether to recall Walker — an effort started, maintained and financed by the unions. If the polls are correct, Walker, who is being challenged by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, seems headed toward keeping his job. And now, the president is not only no longer talking about Wisconsin, he’s actually seeking to distance himself from next week’s likely Democratic defeat.
But the Democratic party can’t be seen to give up on the race. So they’ve sent in presidential surrogate, Bill Clinton:
Former President Bill Clinton aimed to fire up Democrats in Milwaukee on Friday, just four days before a recall election targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Clinton’s visit to the Democratic stronghold and home city of Walker’s challenger, Milwaukee’s Mayor Tom Barrett, marks the latest in a string of high-profile Democrats who have campaigned on his behalf in recent days.
Clinton, of course, is still one of the great campaigners in recent decades. It’s not easy to think of anybody who is better at this stuff. But even Clinton needs a popular cause — and an audience. Ann Althouse reports:
Buzzfeed reporter Rosie Gray is tweeting it, here. Sample stuff:
Mahlon Mitchell, running for lt gov, speaking now. Starts a “show me what democracy looks like” chant, #OWS- style
Oh, here‘s John McCormack of The Weekly Standard. Sample:
Crowd for Clinton-Barrett rally in Milwaukee 10 minutes before scheduled start: 400 people? twitter.com/McCormackJohn/…
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) June 1, 2012
It’s becoming more and more tempting to paint Wisconsin red.