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

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“While Occupiers and union protesters got the ink, the tea party dropped the placards and picked up clipboards, phones and got out the vote,” writes former tea party activist Dana Loesch, a conservative talk show host, on Adds former US Education Secretary Bill Bennett, writing on “The untold story of the Wisconsin saga may be the resurgence of the tea party.”

A quiet but potent force

As Mr. Bennett suggests, the tea party didn’t get mentioned much in this election. That was partly due to a self-imposed quietude after the brand was tarnished in the congressional debt battles of 2011. But it was also true that the role of the tea party was overshadowed by the stakes for public-sector unions, for whom the defeat at the polls may become a Waterloo moment – a stunning abdication of bargaining rights in the state where public-sector unions were born in 1959.

Another important factor was Walker’s own performance in office, where a slight improvement in his margin of victory – a 7-point victory over Barrett yesterday compared to a 5.8-point margin in 2010 – suggests he won over some Wisconsinites for a series of tough decisions designed to help fix, or at least improve, deep-seated fiscal problems in the Badger State.

But it was the tea party that provided Walker with a big final push against an energized Democratic base, which had collected about 1 million signatures to recall Walker.

In fact, some 36 percent of those who voted in Tuesday’s recall election said they were tea party supporters, and they voted for Walker at a rate of over 90 percent. (Meanwhile, 34 percent of voters said they opposed the tea party, voting by a similar margin for Barrett.)

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