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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s Recall Election: A Bigger Story?

Thursday, 31 May 2012 | 11:08 PM ET
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

With polls showing a widening lead for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in his recall election next week, could the outcome spell trouble for Democrats — and even President Obama?

On CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” Julian Epstein, who served as the chief minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and as the majority staff director of the House Government Operations Committee, argued against putting too much stock in polls — or the idea it would foreshadow November’s presidential election.

“I think at the end of the day, however, it will not be a referendum on how Democrats are going to do in November for a whole bunch of reasons, and it’s not necessarily even a referendum about public employee fights in other states because there’s so many factors at play here,” he said.

Epstein laid out three reasons why voters shouldn’t read too much into the election.

First, he said, the Walker campaign has outspent Democrat Tom Barrett by a wide margin.

Out of roughly $62 million spent so far, Walker’s campaign accounted for about half of that total, with Democratic spending clocking in around $4 million. Other groups accounted for the remaining $21.5 million, according to an ABC News report.

Epstein said the other reasons included “a huge amount of fatigue that occurs after 15 months of a battle,” as well as the fact that the National Democratic Party has stayed out of this fight.

“In fact, you’ve got spokesmen from the Obama campaign and the DNC saying, ‘This is not our fight,’ very different from what the RNC has done,” he said. “And fourth, there is a sense amongst Wisconsin voters that a recall is like an impeachment’ and they don’t necessarily want to decapitate even if they disagree. I think it’s very dangerous to start extrapolating the results into anything else.”

Matt Lewis, a senior contributor to the Daily Caller, disagreed.

If Walker survives the recall, which Lewis called likely, “I think the big message this sends is: You can be sort of a (Conservative Former British Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher, you can do things like (New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie and Scott Walker,” he said. “You can do big things and be rewarded for them. that is huge.”

Lewis said he thought there was strong energy from conservatives, a trait that is not apparent on the left.

“Progressives are, as he mentioned, tired and played out. There isn’t this passion,” he said. “But I will say there is an interesting cross-current at play here. I predict that President Obama in five months will be bragging about the jobs just like Scott Walker is today.”

Lewis said the importance of the Wisconsin recall election was that governors like Christie and Walker “can do really big things.”

“It used to be if you went after the labor unions, you were dead,” he said. “I mean, maybe literally, but I mean that figuratively. Nowadays, I think this sends a signal it will embolden governors around the country you can take on the unions and survive politically.”

Tune in:

"The Kudlow Report" airs weeknights at 7 p.m. ET.

Questions? Comments, send your emails to: lkudlow@kudlow.com

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  • Lawrence Kudlow is a CNBC senior contributor. Previously, Kudlow was anchor of CNBC's prime-time program "The Kudlow Report"