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Did tea party put Scott Walker over the top in Wisconsin recall?

The tea party movement flexed its muscle in Wisconsin, as Gov. Scott Walker handily won a recall vote on Tuesday. Thirty-six percent of voters said they support the movement – and almost all went for Walker.

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Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker reacts at his victory party on Tuesday night, in Waukesha, Wis. Walker defeated Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election.

Morry Gash/AP

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Disappointed progressives blame an avalanche of campaign cash from outside Wisconsin for their failed bid to recall tea party favorite Gov. Scott Walker (R), whose controversial gambit to shrink the influence of the public-sector unions became a national cause célèbre for both the right and the left last year.

In a way, those critics are spot on: Wisconsin was, in fact, flooded with record amounts of donations that helped Mr. Walker defeat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), with some of that outside cash coming from wealthy industrialists and financiers.

But there’s a second part to how Walker won. Walker’s ground game played a big role in pulling off a win, as he became the first governor in US history to survive a recall election. And like the recent GOP primary victory of Richard Mourdock over veteran US Sen. Dick Lugar in nearby Indiana, that ground game is being pitched by cadres of grass-roots activists who identify to a large extent with the leaderless tea party movement.

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