Will Big Labor make Scott Walker a national hero in the GOP?

In an earlier post, I discussed how Democrats’ attacks on Mitt Romney have backfired on Barack Obama.  Politico reports that the same thing is happening in Wisconsin, where Big Labor tried flexing its muscle by pushing Governor Scott Walker into a recall for his reforms of public-employee union collective bargaining.  Unfortunately, their effort looks like it will fail badly — and if so, the labor unions may have made Walker much more powerful than he otherwise would have been, and made other Republicans a lot less fearful of Big Labor’s reach:

Now, instead of tacking Walker’s pelt to their door as a warning to any who would follow him, there’s a prospect the whole thing might backfire by elevating Walker into a tested-by-fire, conservative cult-hero and exposing the limits of the Democrats’ ability to exact revenge in the next statehouse where they’re wronged.

All the big GOP players now know Walker’s story by heart. Republican billionaires and megadonors are suddenly well-acquainted with him as well.

And if he wins in the June 5 recall against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) — which polls suggest he’s likely to do — his trajectory will very likely be even higher.

Not only will Walker be lionized by his GOP colleagues for embarrassing Big Labor and forcing the left to pour cash down the drain in a presidential election year, he’ll be credited with making the state more competitive for Mitt Romney.

The bigger problem for unions is the display of impotence.  They have poured millions of dollars into Wisconsin, pushed people into rallies and protests, and wasted valuable man-hours organizing for recall elections and a special election for the state Supreme Court, only to come up empty thus far.  Until now, people feared the impact of unions in elections, and in special elections such as these even more, as they are more easily mastered by superior organization.  However, Walker supporters cast more ballots in the recall primaries than the combined votes of the top two Democrats, just as they did in the race that pitted Supreme Court Justice David Prosser against Joanne Kloppenburg, and in almost every recall race thus far.  Democrats have only won one of those races, which failed to swing the state senate to their control.

Can the unions pull out a win in less than two weeks?  A new poll by Reason Magazine and Rupe shows Walker now up eight points in the state:

Gov. Scott Walker leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 50-42 among those likely to vote in Wisconsin’s June 5 recall election, according to a new Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults on cell phones and landlines.

In the presidential race, 49 percent of all adults surveyed approve of the job President Obama is doing and 45 percent disapprove. President Obama leads Mitt Romney 46-36 in Wisconsin, with 6 percent selecting the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. Obama’s margin over Romney shrinks to 45-41 among those likely to vote in June’s recall election, with Johnson taking what would be a crucial 5 percent of the vote.

The Reason-Rupe poll finds voters overwhelmingly support many of the key changes Gov. Walker and the legislature implemented on public sector pensions and health care last year. Reason-Rupe finds 72 percent favor the change requiring public sector workers to increase their pension contributions from less than 1 percent to 6 percent of their salaries. And 71 percent favor making government employees pay 12 percent of their own health care premiums instead of the previous 6 percent.

The splits in this poll are symmetrical.  Without leaners, the D/R/I is 29/29/39, and with leaners 45/45/7.  In 2010, the D/R/I was 37/36/28.  The problem with this comparison is that the ad hoc nature of special elections make it difficult to model for predictive purposes, but I’d say this is in the ballpark.

On top of this bad news, Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, will have to do some explaining about crime statistics that he’d previously used to argue for his candidacy as governor:

State and local leaders called Wednesday for independent audits of the Milwaukee Police Department’s crime numbers citing a Journal Sentinel investigation that found more than 500 cases in which serious crimes were misclassified as lesser offenses.

That review discovered an additional 800 cases since 2009 that follow the same pattern, but couldn’t be verified with available public records. Copies of those incidents reports have been requested from police.

The newspaper found enough misreported cases in 2011 alone that violent crime would have actually increased 1.1% instead of a 2.3% decline from the reported 2010 figures, which had their own errors.

Dozens of misclassified assaults were sent to FBI crime reporting experts who confirmed that they should have been marked as aggravated assault. Police officials agreed when they were presented to them.

Aldermen Joe Dudzik and Bob Donovan called for the city comptroller’s office to conduct an independent audit of the police numbers.

And state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said Wednesday she would request an audit by the Legislative Audit Bureau of the police department’s crime data.

The big question in this will be who miscoded the data to the FBI and why.  The president of the police union in Milwaukee says that police officers wouldn’t have done that — and that the culprit is “something beyond” the police officers and their supervisors.

Update: Politico’s Mike Allen tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Walker will “win big,” to Joe Scarborough’s surprise (via Jim Geraghty):

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“The Left, labor, Democrats, which planned to embarrass him, instead have made him a national figure with a very bright future,” Allen continues. “It was money poured down the drain by Democrats and the Left in a presidential election year.”

John Heilemann chimes in, “You notice the White House, the reelection committee in Chicago, they’ve stayed away from Wisconsin. They’ve done these big ad buys, they picked their nine states, Wisconsin not on that list. The reason is they wanted to see how this turned out. They have kept their distance from it.”

They’re backing away from the stench, apparently.