Embattled Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, an anti-union darling of the tea party and other fiscal conservatives, faces off Tuesday against Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a high-stakes recall election that politicos say could foreshadow the contentious November general contest.
The fight to recall Walker after only an 18-month tenure in office speaks to some in the blue-leaning state's frustration over Republican-led efforts to keep unions in check. Walker and his GOP colleagues in the state legislature voted last January to restrict public employee unions' collective bargaining rights and keep their raises -- except those of police and firefighters -- at inflation rates. Protests and a union backlash ensued along with efforts to recall Walker from office.
Walker and his supporters argue that unions are making it difficult to take the steps needed to shrink the state's mushrooming debt. Unions and their supporters counter that collective bargaining has helped ensure safe working conditions, fair treatment and wages and adequate health care.
The deeply polarized Wisconsin recall race also pits Democrats and their Big Labor allies against Republicans and impassioned tea party supporters in a multi-million dollar showdown that's drawn such political stars as former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., into the fray.
A loss for either party in the close race could start a domino effect in swing states.
As CNN's Candy Crowley pointed out Monday in an analysis: If Walker sidesteps a recall, it would speak to conservative's grassroots power, the waning power of unions -- which typically ally with Democrats -- and could further Romney's efforts in the state.
A Walker recall would mean conservatives were roundly chastised, the tea party suffered a blow and Obama has strong footing in Wisconsin.