Walker’s fate in Wisconsin comes down to ground game

Updated 1:08 PM EDT, Tue June 5, 2012

Story highlights

Democratic groups say they contacted nearly 750,000 voters over the weekend

Republicans have contacted 4 million voters this year

The recall fight stems from a battle over collective bargaining rights for public employees

Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces off against Democrat Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee

(CNN) —  

In the canon of political cliches, “it all comes down to turnout” is among the most tired.

But in the case of the polarizing and closely watched Wisconsin recall election, the maxim happens to ring true.

Public polling, internal polling and campaign strategists all tell the same story: Republican Gov. Scott Walker is clinging to a tiny lead over his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, heading into Tuesday’s vote.

And the number of undecided voters has dwindled to almost zero, strategists in both parties say, meaning that the only mission left for both sides is to get their rabid supporters to the polls.

“Our sole focus right now is on our grassroots get-out-the-vote-effort,” said Ben Sparks, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Republican Party.

The final blitz began over the weekend.

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“We Are Wisconsin,” an umbrella group funded by labor unions and the Democratic Governors Association, said it contacted nearly 750,000 voters over the weekend, with the goal of touching 1.4 million people with phone calls or door knocks by the close of polls Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the state GOP and the Republican National Committee, which are coordinating some of their efforts with the Walker campaign, boasted Monday that they have identified and contacted 4 million voters since January – a number that has national Republicans speculating that they can put the state in play for Mitt Romney in November.

The recall fight has its roots in Walker’s successful push in early 2011 to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights in an effort to close an ugly budget shortfall.

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The push sparked a bitter partisan battle between Walker and Democrats in the state legislature, and set off a wave of historic protests from union members inside and outside the state capitol in Madison.

After Walker signed the controversial budget bill in March 2011, labor organizers subsequently managed to collect 900,000 certified signatures to trigger a recall and are now among those leading the final get-out-the-vote push.

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On Monday, at a Madison-area branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Barrett supporters spent the day popping in to pick up fliers for door-to-door voter contact efforts.

Randy Case, a retiree from Cross Plains, was among those who dropped by the AFSCME office to help.

He said Walker deserves to be removed from office because he trampled on Wisconsin’s cherished tradition of fair play in state government.

“This is a friendly state,” Case said. “People get along here, and I think in our government, that has meant we elect people who work across the aisle and listen to other side. And that has just been absent with this current administration. It’s ‘my way or the highway,’ which is simply not a Wisconsin value. It’s not how we govern ourselves.”