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Inside the Beltway: The Wisconsin spectacle

The media will chronicle the drama, activists will crowd the streets — but Wisconsin's recall election Tuesday could backfire for those pining to wrest Gov. Scott Walker from his office. "With President Obama looking on fearfully (and carefully avoiding any personal involvement in the contest), the only thing bitter Wisconsin liberals may have accomplished is putting their state in play for Mitt Romney this November," observes Commentary magazine's chief political blogger, Jonathan Tobin.

"With Walker looking like a winner tomorrow, the coverage of the race has shifted to a discussion of how the recall will affect the presidential contest," Mr. Tobin says, adding, "If the GOP emerges victorious, liberals will not only have transformed Walker from an embattled incumbent to a national powerhouse, but they may also have set the stage for a Democratic debacle that could cost their party the White House. If that happens, the party will have only their union allies to blame for a decision that was rooted in anger rather than smart politics."

BADGER STATE JITTERS

Now that the moment of truth finally has arrived, Wisconsin officials are fidgeting over the fierce match between the aforementioned Mr. Walker and Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. About 2.8 million voters are expected to go to the polls after witnessing some $63 million worth of political ads from both candidates in recent months. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice will send a few federal observers to the state to make sure the election complies with the Voting Rights Act.

Things are gettin' jittery.

The state's Government Accountability Board went so far as to release a list of the top 10 things Wisconsin voters "should know" before confronting the ballot, including warnings to leave their political paraphernalia at home and an advisory to contact the chief voting inspector or even local police if one encounters "possible election crimes." Officials also are poised for a possible recount.

"The eyes of the nation will be on Wisconsin in the coming days, and we realize this recall election is an intense time for the voters, for election officials and the candidates," says Kevin Kennedy, director of the agency. "But whether it's exercising some patience while waiting in line to vote or using some common sense about not wearing campaign apparel or buttons to the polling place, people can make this election a lot easier on themselves and everyone else involved."

THE VALUES SCHISM

When it comes to some visceral values, "partisan polarization" has surged between Republicans and Democrats during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, says a massive new survey from Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, released Monday.

A few of the many, many numbers: 92 percent of Republicans say they "never doubt the existence of God" compared to 77 percent of Democrats. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans agree they have "old-fashioned values about family and marriage"; 60 percent of Democrats agree.

This monster study offers data going back a quarter-century, plus a nifty interactive feature. See it all here: www.people-press.org

RADIO 9-9-9

Neal Boortz, a talk-radio stalwart for 42 years, plans to retire dramatically forever on Jan. 21- Inauguration Day. A tidy transition is afoot, though. Former presidential hopeful Herman Cain, an Atlanta-based talk-radio vet himself, will take his place. And voila: Mr. Cain inherits his predecessor's syndication agreement with Cox Radio, plus about 6 million listeners in 200 markets. The pair will co-host the show a few times leading up to the big event on the steps of the U.S. Capitol

"If it's Barack Obama, then I'm going to disappear into the mountains and come out after he has destroyed this country. If it's Mitt Romney, we'll start drinking as the show begins," Mr. Boortz told his listeners on Monday.

"Neal has spent his career serving as a bold, vocal advocate of what is right in this world, and condemning that which is not. I promise the torch Boortz is handing off to me will blaze as bright, as bold, and as loud as ever," Mr. Cain says. "He may be 'the talk master,' but Neal's listeners know I'm the 'the dean of the university of common sense.' "

STAR-SPANGLED MUSIC

The patriotic rock band Madison Rising has just released its take on the "The Star-Spangled Banner," with a guitar and drum-driven rendition that takes some liberties with Francis Scott Key's 200-year-old original but ultimately emerges as a sincere effort to raise the nation's spirits.

"We are the brave" belts out lead singer Dave Bray, a U.S. Navy veteran.

The four-minute accompanying video uses stirring imagery from Sept. 11 plus some splendid all-American scenes from sea to shining sea; see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8C7i9kdEf8. The song itself will be available on iTunes, Amazon and numerous other outlets on Tuesday.

"We've reworked the national anthemin an absolutely unique way, but staying as true and respectful to the original version as possible," Mr. Bray says, noting that the banditself espouses such principles as liberty, smaller government and personal responsibility.

POLL DU JOUR

• 51 percent of likely Wisconsin voters approve of Gov. Scott Walker's job performance.

• 87 percent of "very conservative" and 81 percent of "somewhat conservative" voters in the state plan to vote for Mr. Walker.

• 36 percent of moderate voters agree.

• 47 percent of the state's voters plan to vote for Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the recall.

• 80 percent of "very liberal" and 81 percent of "somewhat liberal" voters in the state agree.

• 60 percent of moderate voters also agree.

Source: A Public Policy Polling survey of 1,226 likely Wisconsin voters conducted June 2-3.

Spectacles, recalls, anthems to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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