As soon as April, millions of Wisconsinites will vote on whether to oust Gov. Scott Walker—a rising Republican star and arguably the most polarizing governor in politics today—just two years into his first term in office. Walker's recall election is a referendum on his hardline conservative agenda, including curbing collective bargaining rights for state workers and slashing education funding. For Walker himself it's a pivotal moment in his young political career.
The recall fight is also a crucial test for the tea party, the populist movement that helped elect Walker in 2010, vigorously defended him during last winter's protests over his anti-union "budget repair" bill, and has been organizing to prevent his ouster. The movement's support is flagging, its clout dwindling, its buzz mostly gone. But now, tea partiers at the state and national levels are rallying around Walker's recall defense, hoping a victory could bolster the movement in a critical election year. A defeat, on the other hand, would give ammo to liberals and conservatives alike who say the tea party is all but dead.
In recent months, the Tea Party Express, a national organization, and the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, a tea party-linked political action committee, have waded into the recall fight, blasting out more than a dozen emails to supporters and launching a $100,000 "money bomb" fundraiser to help defend Walker. They argue that the outcome has national implications for the 2012 presidential election; a Tea Party Express email to supporters in January announced that Wisconsin is "Ground Zero for the Battle Against Obama's Liberal Agenda."
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