After a long, bitter battle and millions of GOP dollars from across the nation, Gov. Scott Walker has survived a recall challenge to remain governor of Wisconsin. Exit polls had the race at 50-50, notes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But with 97% of the vote counted in the high-turnout contest, Walker grabbed 53.5% of the vote to Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's 45.9%, reports the New York Times. Walker, the first governor in the nation to survive a recall election, thanked God and his supporters, declaring: "Tonight, we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all around the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions." In his concession speech, Barrett appealed for healing. “We are a state that has been deeply divided. It is up to all of us—our side and their side—to listen, to listen to each other," he said.
The closely-observed state fight—centered on collective bargaining and union rights—is widely considered a harbinger of things to come. Mitt Romney tweeted: "I congratulate Scott Walker on his victory. Tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin Republicans." The GOP had the money edge in Wisconsin. Walker raised more than twice the funds Barrett did, a major chunk of it from outside the state, and Republicans outspent Democrats on the airwaves by a two-to-one margin, reports AP. (Read more Scott Walker recall stories.)