Protests in February 2011 drew thousands to Madison.

The clock is ticking for Wisconsin Republicans as voters head to the polls in today’s six recall elections.  It would only take a change of three Republicans to give control to Democrats in the state senate.

Seen by many as voters’ rejection of Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union and anti-worker policy prescriptions, a failure by state Dems to capture at least some of the state seats up for grabs would be seen as a major “win” nationwide for Republican governors looking to slash state budgets and collective barganing rights in their home states.

Natasha Lennard of’s War Room lays out exactly what’s at stake:

The elections are being read as a referendum on Gov. Walker’s agenda — specifically his efforts to curb union rights, which have been followed by GOP governors in other states. As we reported last week, more than $30 million — from the left and the right — has been poured into the recall efforts by interest groups from around the country who believe that the outcome in Wisconsin will set the stage for a national fight over unionized labor. Walker cannot himself face a recall yet (elected officials must serve over a year of a given term before they can be recalled and he only took office in January) but success for the Democrats now would build momentum for a recall effort against Walker in 2012.

Abe Sauer at The Atlantic says the original intentions of the recall have changed in his excellent overview of the elections today:

Even the Democrat candidates have largely abandoned the original reason for the recalls — state restrictions on collectively bargaining — for the language of the national debate: Obamacare; Ryancare; taxes; debt; abortion; jobs. In a few cases, Republicans have leveraged stewing, 1960s-era state sentiments about lily-livered hippie protesters.

The bigger implication for national politics outside of Wisconsin is still unclear, but we are seeing a record-breaking amount of outside money being funneled into the state by third party groups, many of whom are looking to “use Wisconsin to set a fulcrum for the 2012 national debate.” The numbers are staggering: around $31 million in six districts vs. the $3.75 million for the entire state in 2010.  Amazingly, that breaks down to about $1,557 being spent per undecided vote.

Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign told Mother Jones that two-thirds of the recall spending comes from undisclosed sources and that he “blames the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision for allowing so much anonymous spending.”

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz has been broadcasting from Wisconsin this week.  The passion from those behind the fight is undeniable when watching the intro to his show on Monday night. He frames the fight this way:

This is still ground zero for the fight for the middle class in America.  These people didn’t cause the S&P to downgrade our country.  They didn’t put Wisconsin and America in a deep financial hole.  These are people who go to work every day, pay their taxes, and try to make a better life for the next generation.  This is not the face of greed in America.  This is the face of everything that’s absolutely correct in America.

Watch his intro from The Ed Show on Monday night here:

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Here’s a look back at our February coverage on the protests on  Dylan interviewed tax expert David Cay Johnston about some of the numbers behind the Wisconsin fight. He who framed the fight this way: a GOP governor taking bargaining power away from the poorest of those in Wisconsin, while 2/3 of the corporations in that state don’t pay a single penny in taxes.  Take a listen:RFD #32: David Cay Johnston by Dylan Ratigan

Also from February, Dylan spoke to Stephanie Bloomingdale of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO about what is at stake for workers:

RFD #31: Stephanie Bloomingdale by Dylan Ratigan