Recall Stirs Passion in a Purple State - Tuesday's Wisconsin recall election has so bitterly divided the state that many residents live in parallel societies, limiting themselves to like-minded friends.
One night last week, Kay Robbins sat at the bar at Al & Al's with about 40 other teachers celebrating a colleague's retirement. Talk turned to what talk often turns to in Wisconsin these days: Gov. Scott Walker.
"He's a weasel," Ms. Robbins said to a lot of nodding heads. "A lying weasel."
Across town at the 8th Street Ale Haus, Kip Ertel, a 50-year-old social worker, sat drinking with friends and talked about Mr. Walker in wholly different terms. "He's the first real grown-up the state has had in a long time," he said.
Tuesday's election on whether to recall Mr. Walker has so bitterly divided this state that many residents live in parallel societies, limiting themselves to like-minded friends, separate drinking holes and sympathetic media outlets.
Triggered by a backlash against the Republican governor's move 15 months ago to crimp collective bargaining for the state's public employees, the recall race has pitted neighbor against neighbor, damaged decades-old friendships, and, in one case, led a woman to drive into her husband when he tried to stop her from voting for Mr. Walker's opponent in a primary last month.
Wisconsin has long been a purple state with a fluid middle. . . . While Wisconsin has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1988—Barack Obama won in 2008 by 14 percentage points—the 2010 election gave Republicans control of both houses of the state legislature and ushered Mr. Walker into office.
Mr. Walker and his supporters say curbing public union's collective-bargaining rights is essential to balancing the state budget, lowering property taxes and creating a business-friendly environment. Union members and many Democrats say public-sector unions weren't the cause of the state's budget problems and argue that Mr. Walker has used his office to drive an ideological agenda well to the right of what most Wisconsinites want.
Both sides, along with the national political establishment, would see a victory Tuesday as a validation of their position and a harbinger of the public mood heading into November's presidential election.
This spring, as the recall entered the home stretch, political positions have become so hardened that a Marquette University Law School poll late last month found only one in every 50 likely voters hadn't decided how to vote. The poll showed Mr. Walker ahead of his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by seven percentage points, within the margin of error. More than one-third of respondents said they had stopped speaking about politics to someone because of disagreements over the recall.
The race has drawn tens of millions of dollars in political donations—much of it from outside Wisconsin—into a state of just 5.7 million people. Much of it has found its way into negative advertisements.