Wisconsin’s Scott Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election on Tuesday in a decisive victory that dealt a blow to the labor movement and raised Republican hopes of defeating President Barack Obama in the November election. Unions and liberal activists forced the recall election over a law curbing collective bargaining powers for public sector workers passed soon after Walker took office in 2011. With nearly all of the votes counted, Republican Walker won by 8 percentage points over Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a bigger victory for the governor over the same challenger than two years ago. Republicans around the country were elated by the result in a state that President Obama won by 14 percentage points in 2008.
Obama’s presumed Republican opponent in November, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, called Walker to congratulate him, an aide to Romney said. Romney had called Walker a “hero” when he visited Wisconsin earlier this year. “A win like this shows Wisconsin may be a redder (more Republican) state in 2012 and could be bad news for Obama,” said Thad Kousser, an associate politics professor at the University of California San Diego. Even Obama’s campaign organization conceded on Tuesday that Wisconsin could be competitive in November. No Republican has won the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984.