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Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker wins recall

54% Republican Gov. Scott Walker reacts at his party Tuesday in Waukesha, Wis., after winning the recall election.

Associated Press

54% Republican Gov. Scott Walker reacts at his party Tuesday in Waukesha, Wis., after winning the recall election.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won a vote to keep his job on Tuesday, surviving a recall effort that turned his state into the first battleground in a bitter election year.

Late Tuesday night, Walker held a solid lead over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat. That made Walker the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election; two others had failed.

The result appeared to be a little closer than expected, as long lines formed at polls statewide, a result, in part, of furious get-out-the-vote efforts on both sides.

The night provided a huge boost for Walker and Republicans in Washington and state capitals who have embraced the same energetic, austere brand of fiscal conservatism as a solution for recession and debt. Walker had defended his policies against the full force of the American labor movement and the modern left.

"Bringing our state together will take some time, but I hope to start right away," Walker said after his victory. "It is time to put our differences aside and figure out ways that we can move Wisconsin forward."

Walker's race was considered a crucial test of both parties' strategies for this fall's presidential election. For Republicans, that meant making the most of a major fundraising advantage: Walker outraised his opponent 7 to 1 in a campaign that cost more than $63.5 million, a state record. That foreshadowed the edge that free-spending super PACs could give presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in November.

For Democrats, that meant using a "ground game" to target voters, with door-to-door campaigning, phone calls and media targeting. Over the weekend, Barrett's supporters had knocked on 948,000 doors and made 890,000 phone calls.

On Tuesday, with voter turnout high, both sides saw evidence that their strategies worked. In the fall, they will do it all again in Wisconsin because the Badger State is projected to be a toss-up between Romney and President Barack Obama.

Wisconsin has gone Democratic in recent presidential elections, and exit polling on Tuesday showed that Obama still holds an advantage. On Tuesday, 52 percent of voters said they will back Obama, while 43 percent said they will support Romney.

On Tuesday, Romney and Obama seemed reluctant to link themselves to the close Wisconsin election, fearing they'd be associated with a loss. Romney did not mention the state in campaign events earlier in the day. Obama limited himself to a supportive tweet from his campaign's Twitter account.

After the results were in, Romney issued a statement celebrating Walker's win.

"Governor Walker has shown that citizens and taxpayers can fight back — and prevail — against the runaway government costs imposed by labor bosses," he said. "Tonight voters said 'no' to the tired, liberal ideas of yesterday, and 'yes' to fiscal responsibility and a new direction."

Walker, a former Milwaukee county executive, was elected in 2010, part of a wave of Republican governors who promised to rein in state spending. He has done more than most, joining with a GOP-led legislature to cut spending and strip most collective-bargaining powers from unions representing state workers.

He took office facing a $3 billion budget shortfall left by his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Since then, Walker has claimed some successes: His office projects that the state will soon show a budget surplus, after climbing out of the red.

But he has not lived up to some promises, including that his policies would create 250,000 jobs over four years. The Associated Press reported that Walker is far off that pace.

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Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker wins recall 06/06/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 1:28am]

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