Alec MacGillis thinks the outcome of today’s vote doesn’t tell us very much about the presidential election:
But there are also going to be some swing voters who are going to be voting less on those big ideological questions than on the more general question of whether things are going okay. If these swing voters believe that things are gradually coming back in Wisconsin — no sure thing, given that the jobs expansion there has been less clear than in Ohio — they may decide to vote for Walker less out of ideological solidarity than because they figure it’s foolish to rock the boat with the rare act of a recall. And here’s the thing — to the extent that Wisconsin swing voters draw that conclusion about Walker, they may also be led to support Obama’s reelection, to stick with the guy in charge. Hard as it may be to believe, there is no question these Walker/Obama voters exist — after all, the same polls that have Walker ahead of Barrett in the polls tend to also have Obama ahead of Romney, albeit by a narrowing margin.
I’m also skeptical that an unsuccessful recall effort in Wisconsin has the broad ideological and political significance that many observers want to attach to it. If Walker wins today, that isn’t necessarily a straightforward endorsement of everything he has done, nor is it a signal to politicians in other states to heed Walker’s example. If the situation were reversed and Walker seemed likely to lose, we would probably be hearing from some of the same people that this is just a state recall election that didn’t have much national significance, and they would be right. Walker’s victory will not “reshape” the politics of both major parties, as Mead believes. All that a Walker victory today definitely means is that there are enough voters in Wisconsin unwilling to take the unusual step of recalling their governor over one contentious and poorly understood issue.
David Brooks argues that a Walker victory would mean that the public wants fiscal responsibility:
On the other hand, if Walker wins today, it will be a sign, as the pollster Scott Rasmussen has been arguing, that the voters are ahead of the politicians. It will be a sign that voters do value deficit reduction and will vote for people who accomplish it, even in a state that has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1984.
There is a real problem in drawing lessons about the public’s priorities at the federal level from a state recall election. Voters might value deficit reduction at the state level, but it doesn’t follow from this that they will be all that receptive to reductions in federal entitlement spending.