Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who has sought to limit collective bargaining, faces a tough recall challenge today from Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett that has implications for unions and the results of the presidential election (NYT) at a time when the economy is a top concern for U.S. voters.
“While the outcome will decide Mr. Walker’s immediate political future, it is also being looked to as a sign about how this state will approach fiscal and other policies in the months ahead, how comfortable other states’ leaders will feel challenging collective bargaining rights and unions, and about President Obama’s chances come November in a key state that he won four years ago,” writes the Times’ Monica Davey. Also facing recall today in Wisconsin are Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators.
Also holding primaries today are New Jersey, New Mexico, and California, the latter of which is trying out a new primary/runoff system (USAToday). Though GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney locked up his party’s nomination last week, voting continues and includes primaries for Congressional seats.
A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that political identity now divides the United States more than race, class, or gender, and that this election year is the most polarized of any point in the last twenty-five years. According to Pew, nearly all of the increases in political polarization have occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, doubling from from 10 percent in the first study to 18 percent this year.
Looking ahead to the fall presidential election, Pew says the largest divides between committed supporters of President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney are over the scope and role of government in the economy. “Swing voters, who make up about a quarter of all registered voters, are cross-pressured,” the study says. “Their attitudes on the social safety net and immigration are somewhat closer to those of Romney supporters, while they tilt closer to Obama supporters in opinions about labor unions and some social issues.”
The election-year opportunity to critique incumbent President Obama’s foreign policy is being squandered,
writes Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic. He warns that voters may later look back at the price of killing Osama bin Laden, the terrorist-hunting drone program, assisting Libyan rebels, and cyberattacks on Iran with regret. “Election time is the opportunity to maximize the impact of these critiques,” Friedersdorf says. “It is the one time when even incumbent presidents must stand before the press and the public to regularly answer detailed questions.”
Meanwhile, analysts attempt to define Romney’s foreign policy (NPR) after he has been slow to do so himself. Richard Stoll, a professor of political science at Rice University in Houston, says few presidential candidates or presidents have a background in foreign policy, and they have to rely on their advisers. Romney also has five months of campaigning to better define and deliver his message, Stoll says.
— Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor