Walker survives Wisconsin recall election

Scott Walker
WAUKESHA, WI - JUNE 05: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker greets supporters at an election-night rally June 5, 2012 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Walker, only the third governor in history to face a recall election, defeated his Democrat contender Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Opponents of Walker forced the recall election after the governor pushed to change the collective bargaining process for public employees in the state.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

(CBS News) WAUKESHA, Wis. -- Scott Walker was the third governor in American history to face a recall election.

He is the first one to win it.

Wisconsin's Republican governor still has a job Wednesday morning after beating his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 53-to-46 percent.

Tuesday's vote was closely watched all around the country.

At his victory rally, Walker had the look of a man who had just saved his own job.

"Tonight, we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions," Walker said to big cheers.

How Walker won
Can Romney capitalize on Walker victory?
Full coverage: Election 2012

Walker turned back the attempt to kick him out of office and turned Wisconsin mostly red (Republican) in the process.

"The election is over; it's time to move Wisconsin forward," Walker told the crowd.

For Democrats, the loss was crushing -- though not entirely unexpected.

Barrett was badly outspent by Walker, and has now lost two gubernatorial elections to him.

He implored his supporters to, "Please, please, please remain engaged, remain involved, because we will continue to fight for justice and fairness in this city and this state."

That time, he drew loud applause.

According to an analysis by CBS News, Walker won with strong support from Republicans, tea party loyalists, and a majority of independents.

And by 60-to-27 percent, Wisconsin voters in CBS News exit polls said recall elections are only appropriate when there has been official misconduct. That was not the case in Wisconsin, where the argument was really about policies one side didn't like.

Walker's decision to limit the bargaining power of public employee unions kicked off lengthy protests last year that turned into a movement to show him the door.

Democrats nationally had hoped for a resounding rejection of Walker and his philosophy.

And they worry now that other Republican governors will be emboldened to follow his lead.

The Obama campaign said the outcome was "not what we had hoped for."

For a Bill Plante read on President Obama's reaction, watch the video below:

CBS News exit polling of Wisconsin voters showed President Obama with a seven-point lead over presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

But Romney echoed many in his party who said they see the Wisconsin outcome as hugely significant. Romey tweeted that Tuesday's results "will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin."

Maybe. Or maybe not.

To see the Dean Reynolds report, click on the video in the player at the top of this story.

Jan Crawford had more on Romney's reaction. For that, watch the video below:

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.