other governors in the U.S. have ever faced a recall election -- California's
Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota's Lynn Frazier in 1921 -- and both lost.
The recall race for governor was viewed as crucial nationally, with both sides seeing it as a test of whether politicians could take on unions and survive. Last year, GOP Ohio Gov. John Kasich approved a law curtailing collective bargaining that went further than Wisconsin's, but voters there overturned it in a November referendum.
While that vote weakened Kasich, Walker developed into a national star among conservatives for his tough stance with unions.
"Wisconsin has given their stamp of approval to Gov. Walker's successful reforms that balanced the budget, put people back to work and put government back on the side of the people," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.
In an interview, he said Democrats would be in disarray, in part because President Barack Obama didn't campaign in Wisconsin on behalf of Barrett.
"I think the Democrats are going to have a circular firing squad on their hands for about three weeks," he said. "Obama is going to show up in a month or two and say, 'Hey guys, remember me, you need to help me get re-elected.' I think a lot of Democrats around here are very disappointed in this president. They're going to look back at him, 'Thanks a lot, pal, we appreciate the help.' "
Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), widely expected to be the next speaker of the Assembly, said the majority in Wisconsin "was silent until today."
"And the results can be called nothing less than deafening," Vos said.
Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party, had a different take.
"This was a fight that was worth having," he told Madison-based WISC-TV. "There are some fights that are worth losing over."
At Barrett's party, Tate noted that Walker outspent the Milwaukee mayor by millions of dollars. He said the state would still support Obama in November.
"Wisconsin is not now a red state," he said. "It's a mistake to call it a red state and it will not be that in November. It's a purple state."
"The results of tonight's election show that Wisconsin remains a state divided," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) in a statement. "On both sides, I believe the people are ready to end the polarization of the past 17 months." Walker argued during the campaign that his changes on collective bargaining and requirement that public workers pay more for benefits were crucial to balancing the state's budget. He said the economy was starting to turn around on his watch and that he could still meet a 2010 pledge to create 250,000 private-sector jobs during his first term.
Monthly employment surveys said Wisconsin lost nearly 34,000 jobs last year, but Walker's administration in May released figures from a quarterly census that said the state had actually gained 23,600 jobs in 2011.
Normally, those figures would not be made public until late June -- three weeks after the recall election -- but the administration said it was releasing them early because people deserved to know the actual condition of the economy. Once vetted, the census figures are considered by economists to be more reliable than the monthly ones.
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