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GOP Chairman Says Recall Outcome Could Help Turn Wisconsin Red In November

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says the national party is putting its full weight behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election.
Danny Johnston
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says the national party is putting its full weight behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday he is "very confident" that Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker will survive next week's recall election.

And Priebus, a Wisconsin native, said that a Walker win Tuesday over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett would mean "a much tougher road in Wisconsin" for President Obama in November's general election.

"If Wisconsin goes red [in November], I think it's lights out for Barack Obama," Priebus said during a morning conference call with reporters. "Putting Wisconsin in the red column for the first time since 1984 is a big deal."

Recent Wisconsin polls have shown Walker leading Barrett in a close race, and Obama leading Republican Mitt Romney in an equally tight general election matchup.

Obama won the state comfortably in 2008, beating GOP candidate Sen. John McCain by more than 13 percentage points.

Priebus and other national and Wisconsin Republican leaders have been attempting to frame the recall battle as predictive of what will happen in the state in the presidential race.

"That's why the RNC is all in in Wisconsin," he said. And why, he added, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., headed to the state Wednesday for an appearance at a recall office in Racine.

Priebus characterized her visit as proof that the DNC and the Obama campaign also are "all in."

Wisconsin officials are predicting that up to 65 percent of those eligible could vote in the recall election, much higher than in the 2010 gubernatorial election when Walker defeated Barrett, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

Wasserman Schultz in recent days said that results of the recall won't affect the November presidential contest in Wisconsin.

"It's an election that's based in Wisconsin. It's an election that I think is important nationally because Scott Walker is an example of how extreme the Tea Party has been when it comes to the policies that they have pushed the Republicans to adopt," she said during an interview with C-SPAN. "But I think it'll be, at the end of the day, a Wisconsin-based election, and like I said, across the rest of the country and including in Wisconsin, President Obama is ahead."

Priebus told reporters that the RNC's "full bore" efforts in Wisconsin include organizing leaders and volunteers across the Upper Midwest — in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota — to help with get-out-the-vote efforts.

The RNC and state Republican officials, he said, have 20 recall field offices, and an "aggressive absentee ballot operation" that involves daily tracking of absentee and early votes cast.

After more than two years of fierce political battles in Wisconsin, he said, there is no state where Republicans — and Democrats — know more about their voters.

"We've got an electorate that earlier than normal is making up its mind, which puts the onus on turnout," Priebus said. That's why, he said, "we want to keep our foot on the gas."

--- updated below at 2:30 pm ET ---

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, meeting with party stalwarts in Racine, Wis., defended the national party's commitment to the recall effort. She said the DNC has put more than $1.5 million into the state to "get the recall on the ballot, help with the signature-gathering effort, coordinate with the grass roots on the ground."

She also said that the state's 21 Obama for America offices are focused on the recall effort, and that former President Bill Clinton "is in the process of sorting out his schedule" so he can visit Wisconsin before Tuesday's recall election. Wasserman Schultz also appeared at a Milwaukee fundraiser with Barrett.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liz Halloran joined NPR in December 2008 as Washington correspondent for Digital News, taking her print journalism career into the online news world.