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Will Failed Wisconsin Recall Boost Tea Party?


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Does the Wisconsin recall result have national implications and is the message a victory for the Tea Party? Well, we're going to ask a Republican political consultant who is very much identified with Tea Party candidates.

Jeff Roe runs Axiom Strategies in Kansas City, Missouri. He's regarded as a very pugnacious conservative, willing to take his client candidates negative. And he's here in Washington today. Welcome.

JEFF ROE: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: For you, what's the message out of Wisconsin?

ROE: Well, there's two messages. One, that was a mini presidential election. We saw both parties. We saw more money than was needed. We saw every aspect of a campaign well-funded. And we saw a result that was surprising. And the implication is that the ground game that the Republicans have coming out of that is strong.

SIEGEL: But the money, the preponderance of Republican or pro-Republican money in that race - which some people put at 3-to-1, some people put it at about 6-to-1 - much greater than the Republicans might conceivably enjoy in November, isn't it?

ROE: It is. It's interesting, though, when Republicans win they chalk it up to money. When Obama beat McCain, he had 800 million, McCain had 200 million. And it was because of hope and change. So it's a message, its what it's about. And there was a funding advantage for the Republicans. We felt like this was bending the arc of union influence in the state legislatures.

SIEGEL: What you make of what happened in Ohio, where there was not a recall vote, no recall up for Governor Kasich, the Republican, but there was a referendum on public employee collective bargaining rights and the unions won, Kasich lost in that referendum.

ROE: I think it was a bit of an overreach. They had the fire and police involved there. And when you deal with public sector unions, there's still great support for fire and police unions across the political spectrum. So I think it was a bit of an overreach there. I think Walker's plan is pretty mainstream. You can't have out of control benefits that the taxpayers can't shoulder.

SIEGEL: Well, he may be mainstream but even so, 46 percent of the voters in Wisconsin voted to recall him, which is not a normal thing. I mean, it's not a sign of it being widely supported.

ROE: And he became the first governor in our nation's history to ever survive a recall. So, sure, controversial - Wisconsin is the birthplace of organized labor and they had twice as many signatures as they needed. And they essentially ran the same race that they ran before against him, with the exact same result.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you about one of the candidates whom you consulted for this year, Richard Mourdock, the Indiana Republican who beat Senator Lugar for the Republican nomination. First, Mourdock told MSNBC this about his view of his role in politics.

SENATOR-ELECT RICHARD MOURDOCK: To me, the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else, on the microphone or in front of a camera, to win them over to my point of view.

SIEGEL: And he was quoted by The New York Times as saying, the time for being collegial has passed, it's time for confrontation.

ROE: I think winning the hearts and minds are definitely what this race is about. Because, think about this, it's really stunning when you step back. We have a presidential election right now, today, with only eight percent of the American public is undecided. You take that number in half because half of those people won't go vote, so we have a very split nation. And so, that means that we have to influence people.

We can't just say this is our position and take it or leave it. We have to exercise our ability to motivate others to come to our position. It's supposed to be confrontational - democracy is.

SIEGEL: Do you find roots for that somewhere in American political history? I mean, for a movement, the Tea Party Movement, which is always talking about the Constitution, the Framers seem to always be talking about compromise.

ROE: Well, our politics is nothing like it was compared to then. And the way it's different is it's much more collegial now than it was then. There were duels on the floor of the United States Senate. Asked Mr. Lincoln if he thought that his race was an easy race.

But I think that what has happened is we have a divided system and we have a very few people in the middle, which means that you have to elect more of your friends to get there. And I think that's really the message. Republicans aren't going to get anything done if they don't have a majority, and Mr. Mourdock wants a majority in the Senate.

SIEGEL: Jeff Roe, thanks for giving us a conservative Republican view of 2012.

ROE: Glad to see you again.

SIEGEL: Jeff Roe, a political consultant. He runs Axiom Strategies. He's based in Kansas City, Missouri. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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