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Politics & Government

What National Experts Are Saying About The Wisconsin Governor's Race

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Wisconsinites won’t be the only people interested in the results of Tuesday’s election.

Voters will decide whether to grant Republican Gov. Scott Walker another four year term or give the job to Democrat Mary Burke.

Political observers across the country are watching, and this isn’t the first time a national spotlight has shone on a Wisconsin race. Wisconsin politics captured national attention in 2011, when people staged massive protests at the state Capitol and Democratic senators fled their offices - to prevent a vote.

They were all upset with Governor Walker for Act 10 – his plan to strip down public union rights. Since then, the governor’s reputation has spread across the country, according to Don Kettl. He’s a political science professor at the University of Maryland.

“There’s this tremendous back story about part of the state Legislature taking off for Illinois and hiding out in a big battle with the governor," Kettl says. "There’s the question of whether or not the governor and his positions he’s been staking out are things that the GOP can build on for the future, whether or not he may be able to move on as a possible presidential candidate."

Kettl says it’s obvious that Democratic Party operatives nationwide are taking the Wisconsin governor’s race seriously. Why else would President Obama have visited last week on behalf of Mary Burke?

One nearby state paying attention is Iowa – it always holds the country’s first presidential caucuses. Iowa State University Political Scientist Dianne Bystrom says people did a double-take after Gov. Walker took office in 2011.

“A lot of people see Wisconsin as being Madison, Wisconsin and being fairly liberal, and didn’t realize Wisconsin had a more conservative bent and has gotten more conservative in recent years,” Bystrom says.

Bystrom says outsiders have watched Walker win some of his more controversial fights and become the nation’s first governor to survive a recall.

Professor Gary Moncrief specializes in recall studies at Boise State University. He says Wisconsin may have captivated political observers during its recall election in 2012, but this year, the governor’s race here will not be the only one of note.

“You’ve got the battle for the U.S. Senate and about eleven other states besides Wisconsin that are in very tight races for control of the governorship, so it’s a very different dynamic this time around,” Moncrief says.

Among other states that will settle close governor’s races on Tuesday are Illinois, Michigan, Kansas and Colorado.

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