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Stump trouble: A-list conservatives campaign for Walker, Barrett gets Feingold

By   /   May 23, 2012  /   No Comments

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — The country’s conservative-darling governors are coming to the aid of one of their own.

National Democrats? Not so much.

Gov. Scott Walker, who has campaigned with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie among others, is bringing in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday to stump in the gubernatorial recall campaign, and has South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley scheduled for June 1.

The biggest political star stumping for Walker’s Democratic opponent in the June 5 recall election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, thus far is former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, beaten by Republican rising star Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson during the Badger State's Republican revolution in 2010.

“At this time, I have no word of Wisconsin plans,” said Brooke Anderson, spokeswoman for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. “Illinois is very focused on solving our own challenges right now.”

So what gives?

Barrett’s campaign didn’t return a message seeking information on who might be coming to Wisconsin to campaign with the mayor.

University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Barry Burden, though, said there are a few reasons for an apparent lack of celebrity support for Barrett.

One, is that national Democrats have quietly begun to give up on the race, particularly in light of recent independent polls that show Walker pulling ahead of his challenger.

“I think that’s been the narrative the last week or so,” Burden said.

Wisconsin Democrats had expressed aggravation with the national Democratic Party about a lack of financial commitment to Barrett and other Democrats in the five other recall elections. In addition to Walker, Wisconsin's lieutenant governor and four state senators face recall elections.

The Democratic Governors Association this week sent out an appeal for donations, asserting it "is closely involved in the recall effort. (W)e’ve already contributed $2 million, more than our organization has ever spent on a Wisconsin gubernatorial election," the DGA says on its website.

A second reason Burden suggests is that Barrett has eschewed national support in an effort to paint Walker as someone beholden to out-of-state interests.

In a new campaign ad released by the Barrett campaign on Wednesday, the Milwaukee mayor calls on Jindal to help Wisconsinites "weed out corruption in Scott Walker's office,"  according to a campaign news release.

The ad opens with Jindal promising he will stamp out corruption in Louisiana.

"Governor Jindal, ask Walker why he's under investigation," demands the ad, in which Barrett does not appear. 

Barrett has made the super-secret John Doe investigation, a probe that has to date targeted former aides of Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive but has not implicated the governor, a focus of his campaign to topple Walker.

Republican leaders have billed the Democrats' John Doe strategy as an act of desperation for a candidate who is lagging in the polls.

And, Barrett has played the state card, so to speak.

“I know that on Tom Barrett’s website he lists endorsements, and every single one of them is from inside the state. That seems intentional to me,” Burden said.

The political science professor said he doesn’t know how much visits from the likes of Christie, Jindal and Haley help Walker in the recall race.

Support from politicians around the country can garner excitement for the campaign, media attention and fundraising opportunities.

Haley’s spokesman, Rob Godfrey, said in an email that, “Scott Walker’s fight is about more than Wisconsin. It’s about a courageous governor who goes into office and carries out his promises to his state regardless of the pushback. Governor Haley admires his strength and will go to Wisconsin and remind them why we need more of it in our country.”

But there is the risk, Burden said, of being seen as someone controlled by and indebted to political interests from outside Wisconsin.

Ciara Matthews, Walker’s campaign spokeswoman, confirmed Jindal's visit but did not respond to an email asking how visits from other conservative governors may help the Walker campaign.

So far, at least, Walker’s campaign strategy seems to be beating Barrett’s, if recent independent poll data is accurate.

Hurting Barrett’s ability to bring in national Democratic “stars” may be, in fact, because of a dearth of them.

Burden said Walker is part of a group of newly elected conservative up-and-comers.

Christie, who has taken on many of the same issues as Walker, including the future of public unions, has been talked about as a potential presidential and vice presidential nominee.

Jindal is the country's first Indian American governor, and Haley, also an Indian American, is the first woman to be elected governor in South Carolina.

But Burden said he was stumped when asked about who would be on the list of comparable Democrats — in part, he said, because with Barack Obama as president, it's harder for other Democrats to get noticed.

Maybe first lady Michelle Obama, he suggested: “She’s inoffensive. She’s well-liked.”

“That might be someone the Barrett campaign might look for,” Burden said. “But there’s not really that obvious list that there is for Scott Walker.”