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Does Obama's absence portend outcome of Wisconsin recall vote?

By Candy Crowley, CNN Chief Political Correspondent
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Tue June 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Candy Crowley: Eyes of the political world are cast on Wisconsin's Tuesday recall vote
  • It's up to voters to decide whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker can stay
  • Republicans: President Obama hasn't visited Wisconsin in support of Democrat Tom Barrett
  • Crowley says the outcome will be translated into a proxy for the fall elections

Washington (CNN) -- Fueled by the power of organized labor, the passion of the tea party and millions in outside money, it is politics gone wild in Wisconsin.

The recall race to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker has pretty much seen it all -- except for President Barack Obama.

Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee who hopes to oust Walker, reads nothing into that: "No, because we understand that he's got a lot going on," Walker told me on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

Meet Scott Walker: From the archives, watch Gov. Walker in 2011 make his case: "we don't have any more money.'

There is little else in the political world right now ,and some Republicans suggest the no-show president means the White House believes Barrett will lose. Walker is less direct:

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"I don't know what it says, but I think it's interesting," the governor told CNN affiliate WLUK-TV on Sunday. "Two years ago, the president came in for our opponent. He's not here now. On Friday, he made three stops in the Twin Cities, to my understanding, three stops in Chicago so it's kind of hard to argue you weren't nearby. "

A top Obama adviser insists the president and company are committed in Wisconsin -- after all, what better way to say "we're with you" than a lot of money and dozens of lawyers.

What's at stake in Wisconsin?

"We poured upwards of a million dollars of resources into that race, our entire field operation is committed to it, we've got hundreds of lawyers up there for voter protection programs, so we're invested in it and we're very much in the corner of Mayor Barrett," campaign strategist David Axelrod said.

The recall race was born out of Walker's first budget, which sought to deal with an expected $3.8 billion shortfall. It was an austere plan that included stripping most public unions of collective bargaining rights.

The state capitol was awash in union-led protests, quickly met by tea party counterprotests.

Democratic lawmakers went AWOL in an attempt to keep the budget from passing, but in the end, Walker got much of what he wanted. And Democrats set about getting nearly twice the number of signatures needed for a recall race.

Barrett accuses the governor of being an ideologue out to destroy unions and put himself on the map.

"Scott Walker wants to make this a national race because he wants to be on the national stage as the rock star of the far right, as the poster boy of the tea party," Barrett said.

Republicans say Walker, who has a 51% approval rating, is a guy who said what he meant and meant what he said.

"You can't keep operating a government that spends more money than it takes in. So Scott Walker is one of these special people that have made promises and kept promises," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Poll: Race for the White House very close

Whatever happens, the Wisconsin results will be translated as a proxy race for the fall presidential campaign.

It will go something like this:

If Walker avoids recall, it is an early-bird signal of the grassroots strength of conservatism, the decline of union power and an opening in Wisconsin for Mitt Romney.

If Walker is recalled, it is a rebuke of the excesses of conservatism, a defeat for the tea party and a sign that Wisconsin remains solid Obama territory.

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