Wisconsin holds its recall vote Tuesday without any campaign appearances by President Obama. He apparently didn't want to risk damaging his brand in a potentially losing effort for Democrats.
After all, the outcome of the battle between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, will be seen as a harbinger of the result in November’s presidential race. So shouldn’t Mr. Obama have wanted to defend his turf in person?
Not necessarily. Here’s why:
• The Wisconsin recall is in fact not a true microcosm of the November election. It is a special election, driven by local factors and personalities. The spark was Governor Walker’s move to cut collective bargaining rights for most public workers, but it has morphed into a rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial race.
• The recall election has become highly polarized. Given Wisconsin’s status as a battleground state in presidential politics, Obama can ill afford to alienate the critical independent vote.
• Walker has led in the polls all along, albeit not by a wide margin. If Obama chose to campaign in Wisconsin in person, that would raise the stakes for him personally in a race that is already an uphill battle. Team Obama’s calculation appears to be that there’s less upside than downside to his jumping in.