MILWAUKEE -- As the Republican presidential candidates engage in a protracted battle for the party's nomination, President Obama is already running campaign ads in the state of Wisconsin. Experts agree, Wisconsin will be a critical battleground state once again, but this year, there's another factor to watch: the potential recall elections against Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican state senators. According to UW-Milwaukee Professor of Government Affairs Mordecai Lee, the recalls in Wisconsin could have an impact on the presidential race.
Lee says Obama and whoever ends up being the Republican nominee for president should monitor the state of Wisconsin closely if they want to win the state, particularly if there are recall elections in the state. "If you're Mr. Obama, or you're the Republican Party nominee, and you want to win Wisconsin in the presidential election, you want to watch Wisconsin really closely, and what happens with the recall of the governor, because it'll tell you what are the kinds of topics the voters care about," Lee said.
Those topics will likely be variations of the issues that have divided Wisconsin - debates about the size and scope of government, how to solve budget deficits, workers' rights, and the tensions between the rich and the poor that have fueled the "Occupy" movement.
Recall organizers say there's deep anti-Republican sentiment across the state of Wisconsin. They submitted nearly two million signatures for the recall of the governor and five other Republicans last week.
Over the weekend, Republicans sought to prove a majority of the state stands behind Scott Walker in staging a rally that attracted thousands of people, and some of the state's biggest political players.
"Both parties, in terms of the presidential election, are watching this very closely, because Wisconsin is a deep purple state. We're about as balanced as can be," Lee said.
One thing is for sure: with the presidential race potentially hinging on a battleground state like Wisconsin, and what happens in the recall, there will be a lot of money spent here. Some observers believe the gubernatorial recall alone could be a $100 million race.