Gov. Walker Gave 'Big Gift' to WI Dems, Yet Controversial Obama-Care Passage Was 'Drawback' for G.O.P.?

The Times spun the defeat of public-sector unions in Wisconsin by Gov. Scott Walker as a long-term political victory for Democrats: Wisconsin Curbs Public Unions, But Democrats Predict Backlash" and predicted he had awoken the sleeping giant of labor unions. Yet after the more unpopular Obama-care passed, the Times warned of the "drawbacks" of Republican opposition.
Friday's off-lead story from Madison by Monica Davey and A.G. Sulzberger, in the aftermath of a defeat for public-sector unions in Wisconsin, spun the win by Republican Gov. Scott Walker as a long-term political victory for Democrats: "Wisconsin Curbs Public Unions, But Democrats Predict Backlash." The online headline was even more blunt: "In Wisconsin Battle on Unions, State Democrats See a Big Gift." Walker has evidently awoken "the sleeping giant" of labor unions (as if they had previously stayed out of politics).

By contrast, there was no such wishful thinking or hunt for the bright side for the losers in the aftermath of the fiercely contested passage of unpopular Obama-care last year. Adam Nagourney's front-page "political memo" of March 23, 2010, "For G.O.P., United Stand Has Drawbacks, Too," suggested Republicans could pay a political price for opposing Obama-care. (It didn't quite work out that way.)

From the Times on Friday:

After nearly a month of angry demonstrations and procedural maneuvering in the State Capitol here, Gov. Scott Walker won his battle on Thursday to cut bargaining rights for most government workers in Wisconsin.

But his victory, after the State Assembly passed the bill, also carries risks for the state's Republicans who swept into power last November.

Democratic-leaning voters appeared energized by the battle over collective bargaining on a national stage. The fight has already spurred a list of potential recall elections for state lawmakers this spring. Protesters are planning more large demonstrations this weekend.

"From a policy perspective, this is terrible," said Mike Tate, the leader of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

"But from a political perspective, he could not have handed us a bigger gift," Mr. Tate said of the governor.

In the last 24 hours, he added, the state party had received $360,000 in contributions and volunteers have streamed into offices where signatures were being collected for recall bids.

Also on Friday morning, chief "Caucus" blog writer Michael Shear argued the Republican victory in Wisconsin would not only help Democrats in general but Barack Obama himself: "Walker Hands a Victory to...Obama?"

The votes late this week by the Wisconsin legislature to curtail collective bargaining rights appears to hand political victories to two very different men: Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, and President Obama.

After a three week stalemate, Republicans in the state found a procedural way to force Mr. Walker's signature measure through the legislature despite the absence of the Democrats in the senate. Mr. Walker has vowed to sign the bill over the objections of the unions and the Democrats.

But in the process, Mr. Walker has done for Mr. Obama an unintended favor. He has energized labor unions, a key part of the president's political base and one that will play a big role in whether or not Mr. Obama gets reelected....But Mr. Walker, by sparking the Wisconsin fight over collective bargaining, may have awoken the sleeping giant, not only in his state, but across the nation.

Reporter James McKinley Jr. on December 21, 2010 similarly and wishfully commented on "the sleeping giant" of the Hispanic vote in Texas that threatened anti-amnesty conservatives: "The risk for Republicans like [Kay Bailey] Hutchison is that in trying to appeal to the conservative base, they will anger Hispanics, who are regarded as the sleeping giant of Texas politics."