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Wisconsin Recall Update: Jump Ball

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"Wisconsin Recall Update: Jump Ball"

Down to the Wire in the Badger State

Next Tuesday, the voters of Wisconsin will decide the fates of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four state senators, including Scott Fitzgerald, the co-majority leader of the Wisconsin State Senate and brother of Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R). Walker is facing off against his 2010 opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

This election will definitely go down to the wire and it’s clear that either side could still prevail.

Here’s the latest.

Polling

Most public polling in recent weeks has shown Walker with a single-digit lead; however, the trend is clear: Barrett is closing in on Walker and the race is tied. A poll released last Friday showed Walker with 49 percent and Barrett with 46 percent. A poll by the same pollster a week earlier had pegged the spread at 51-44. Today, a new poll shows the race a dead heat with each candidate tied at 49 percent.

TPM’s poll tracker pegs the rolling average at 49.4 percent for Walker and 48.6 percent for Barrett — in other words, well within any poll’s margin of error and very, very close.  Democrats and labor unions are promising an extensive, aggressive ground game of the sort that can drive the turnout needed to win an election this close.

Dirty Tricks

One week before Wisconsinites vote on whether or not to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), a conservative group is engaged in dirty tricks that have shut down the Democratic challenger’s campaign phones.

According to multiple reports, independently verified by ThinkProgress, the following spam text message is being blasted out to many Wisconsin cell phones:

FRM:WI@obamasaliar.com
SUBJ:Union Puppet
MSG:Tom Barrett is a Union Puppet who will give Union Thugs everything they want. Call & ask why 414-271-8050

The phone number is that of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign headquarters. The influx of calls following this spam text message has shut down phones at Barrett’s campaign, just days before Election Day and right as get-out-the-vote efforts are ramping up.

Scott Walker’s Legal Woes Mount

In recent days, much attention has been focused the FBI’s “John Doe” corruption investigation of Scott Walker’s office when he was the Milwaukee County Executive.  Walker has not been officially named in the probe, but it remains shrouded in mystery.

Walker has now diverted a total of $160,000, including $100,000 very recently, in campaign donations to bankroll a legal defense fund. For what charges does he need a legal defense? He won’t say.

Walker’s latest campaign finance report reveals that he recently made two transfers totaling $100,000 toward a fund meant to protect him from a “John Doe” corruption investigation.

The three-year long investigation is targeting Walker employees who may have committed a host of corrupt activities — accusations include embezzlement, coercion, and use of taxpayer funds for campaign work. According to the Huffington Post, “Mike Tate, the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, says state law permits Walker to set up such a fund only if he is charged or under investigation for election or campaign violations.”

No one knows exactly if any allegations have been leveled against Walker, or what those might be. However, at the beginning of this year, a Walker appointee and staffer were both arrested and charged with felony embezzlement. Another Walker supporter — one of his funders — was convicted with exceeding campaign spending limits. Whatever Walker’s legal exposure, he is concerned enough to divert substantial campaign funds to his legal defense just days before the election.

Walker previously made another huge transfer of cash into the fund to pay his legal defense.

The Governor is required by law to have donors sign off on a transfer of funds, but the Walker campaign will not reveal who those people are.

And just this afternoon, Walker appeared to potentially concede that he himself was under investigation by saying that the money would not be used for defending his aides. The only remaining legally-permissible purpose for the fund would bankrolling a defense of Walker himself from an investigation or charges.

Stay Tuned

As Dan Rather said on the night of the 2000 presidential election, this one’s tighter than a rusty bolt on ’55 Ford. To keep you informed with all of the latest news, ThinkProgress will be reporting on the ground in Wisconsin during the final days of the election.

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