What Happened

by Robert Costa

Milwaukee, Wis. — Folks, it’s been a wild night — no, a wild year. Here are some scribbles from Barrett’s empty ballroom at the Hilton.

– Walker is the first governor in history to beat a recall. And he galloped to victory in a bluish state — with more votes than he won during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

– Walker’s policies, not his personality, won him the election. According to a recent Marquette University poll, 55 percent of likely voters said they favor limiting collective bargaining for public-sector employees.

– Walker’s administration wasn’t torn apart. His lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, kept her job. But the state senate may have flipped to the Democrats, due to a close race in Racine.

– Turnout hit record highs across the state — more than 55 percent according to the Associated Press.

– Wisconsin Democrats are deflated. Many of them are angry with the president for avoiding Wisconsin. Post-Walker, they may help Tammy Baldwin with her Senate bid and knock on doors for Obama, but this was the race of the year — and they lost big.#more#

– John Nichols of The Nation on the Left’s error: “They made mistakes, particularly as regards to messaging. They were let down by national Democratic players.”

– Barrett to NRO, post-concession, on whether he blames Obama: “No, not tonight. Tonight is about talking with friends.” Or getting struck by them: An enraged woman slapped the mayor for conceding. (Jim has the video.)

– The Clintons remain popular among Wisconsin Democrats. One Milwaukee teacher told me tonight, after Barrett’s speech, that he’ll “remember [Bill] Clinton’s visit” if Secretary Clinton runs in 2016.

– The Badger State GOP is pumped about its November chances. After boosting Justice Prosser last spring, then rallying behind the recalled state senators and Walker, they’re in tip-top campaign shape.

– Team Obama is clinging to the president’s decent numbers in the exit polls — a strange strategy, to say the least. Romney has barely begun his general-election campaign and, after Walker’s win, he likely sees an opportunity.

– Romney’s statement: “Governor Walker has shown that citizens and taxpayers can fight back and prevail against the runaway government costs imposed by labor bosses.”

– The takeaway from Walker’s speech: As the victor, he’ll seek unity. “We are no longer opponents,” he told the crowd in nearby Waukesha. “We are one as Wisconsinites.” (Watch it here.)

Beers and brats with Barrett would be a good start.

– Ed Schultz after NBC News called the race for Walker: “Okay, I think it’s awful close and there’s a lot of absentee ballots yet that are still out and it’s going to be very, very close down to the wire.”

– Even though voter identification is a perennial issue in Wisconsin, it didn’t tip the outcome.

– As we predicted, the Milwaukee suburbs were critical to Walker’s win.

– Jesse Jackson was ubiquitous at Barrett HQ — and as expected, he raised a few eyebrows.

– Walker’s 53 percent win was impressive, but a few of those voters may drift back to the Democratic column. On the trail, bipartisan anger about the recall process was a constant refrain.

– Walker’s numbers among independents are solid, according to CBS News. Among this coveted group, he beat Barrett soundly, 54 percent to 45 percent.

– And lastly, Barrett’s late-night spin: Yes, I lost, but “democracy came alive.”

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