Tom Barrett is getting a little help from his friends — but Scott Walker is getting a lot.
In contrast to the nationalization of the Wisconsin governors race by Republicans, with big-name GOPers dropping into the state to appear with Gov. Scott Walker, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been keeping things local and low-key.
Walker is closing out a week of high-profile visits from GOP superstars. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty campaigned with Walker on Tuesday; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal joined him on Thursday; and upcoming visits include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the latter of whom is also the current chair of the Republican Governors Association.
By contrast, Barrett has not campaigned with big national Democrats. Even one nationally known Democrat who did campaign with Barrett, former Sen. Russ Feingold, who appeared with Barrett on Tuesday, is himself a native Wisconsin figure.
There has developed a widespread perception that national Democrats have cut bait on the race, leaving the Wisconsin Dems on their own. That is not entirely true — as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the Democratic Governors Association sent another $900,000 just this Thursday to a major recall group, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.
That money has paid for a variety of ads, including a recent spot accusing Walker of rigging the recent jobs numbers announcement:
And Reuters notes that with the latest cash injection, the DGA’s total contribution to the recall is now $3 million.
Also Friday morning, the DGA sent its supporter list a fundraising email, in which Gov. Martin O’Malley told recipients:
I’ve looked at the numbers since the beginning: We’ve closed a lot of ground. Our ads are having an impact. In the field, we’re identifying our voters and making sure they’re motivated.
We can win — as long as we press on. So don’t let up. Give what you can to help us meet our $300,000 goal and oust Walker.
Thus the national Democratic Party is in fact helping out, but mostly without having its own name attached.
But the numbers are still paltry by comparison: The Republican Governors Association has put in more than $6 million, according to spokesman Mike Schrimpf, and is currently running its seventh TV ad. That’s on top of the enormous amounts of cash pumped into the race by deep-pocketed conservative outside groups.
Also, the absence of star-studded mega events to mobilize supporters only amplifies the funding disparity — Walker has outspent Barrett 3-to-1 on TV ads.
The Barrett campaign and national Democrats, however, insist this is a deliberate move.
“I gotta tell you in all honesty, a lot of outside help is not something this campaign has directly focused on,” Barrett communications director Phil Walzak told TPM. Instead, Walzak said, Barrett is running a locally focused campaign under the slogan “Putting Wisconsin First,” in an effort to make a contrast with Walker’s national speaking events and fundraising efforts.
“And we feel that quite frankly, the people of Wisconsin don’t care about what the governor of Louisiana or South Carolina have to say,” said Walzak. “So the surrogate thing has not been a big issue for us at all.”
“Scott Walker’s tried everything possible to nationalize this race in an attempt to legitimize GOP overreach and turn himself into the party’s rockstar,” a national Democratic source told TPM, “but we recognize that this has been a Wisconsin-led effort first and foremost — including the gathering of 1 million signatures to force the recall — and will continue working with our allies in state to ensure we’re aggressive on air and GOTV.”