From a conversation earlier with Bitter: Which is more important, the Wisconsin recall, or the presidential election this fall?
Here is the expanded version of what I said to her.
There are 2 levels of impact from both elections: the direct impact, and the larger, indirect impact. My feelings are that looking only at the direct impact, POTUS is clearly bigger. A Walker loss would actually have a smaller direct impact on Wisconsin than one might think. Walker and the Republicans managed to do quite a bit in the last year and a half or so, and with the current makeup of the legislature, it is unlikely the Democrats would be able to do all that much, even with the Governorship. Also, due to factors I will discuss later, the chances of retaking the state would likely gradually improve. Meanwhile, the president has power to appoint Supreme Court justices, and numerous other powers that we have seen Obama misuse. Obviously I don’t want to minimize a Walker loss,
The indirect impact is much more interesting. If Walker wins, it will empower other governors to go after the unions, with the reverse also being true. In fact, I think many will claim that either outcome is tantamount to a mandate to either mess with the unions, or never mess with them. This not only affects the budgets and policies of the states, but can significantly weaken one of the major sources of Democrat money and influence, thus weakening the Democrat party as a whole. So a Walker win will strengthen the Republicans chances long term. Therefore, the Wisconsin recall is much bigger than it appears at first glance.
As to which one is more important, I think that actually depends largely on the outcome of the presidential election. A Romney win would largely be interpreted as par for a very troubled first Obama term, and would be seen to have less of a “larger” significance; whereas an Obama win would likely be seen as, and certainly spun as, a mandate to continue his current policies, even past a second term. So I think a Romney win would have a smaller “big picture” impact than an Obama win.
Therefore, I think the relative importance is based largely on who wins the presidential election. Ironically, the Wisconsin recall may affect the presidential race, increasing the importance of the Wisconsin race.