Washington (CNN) – Tom Barrett, the Democratic challenger in Wisconsin’s vote over the recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, said Sunday he did not ask President Barack Obama to visit the state ahead of Tuesday’s election.
“We understand he’s got a lot going on,” Barrett said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Although Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch recently said the president’s absence on the campaign trail is a troubling sign for Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor said the election should not be about national politics.
“Integrity and a grass-roots effort was how this started, and it’s going to be on those same two notes, that’s how this campaign is going to end, with a grass-roots movement and focusing on (Walker’s) integrity,” Barrett told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
The two candidates are locked in a bitter faceoff, the culmination of a two-year fight over collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Both parties are casting the debate as a larger referendum on the role of government and policies supported by both parties. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said last week that the election is a “test run” for Democratic ground operations in the presidential swing state of Wisconsin.
But Barrett pushed back against that assessment, insisting, as he has throughout his campaign, that the impending election is about Badger State ideals.
“I want to make sure that everybody understands this is about Wisconsin values. It’s not about Washington, D.C. It’s about right here, who is going to control the future of this state?” Barrett said. “Will it be tea party, the national right wing? Or is it going to be the people of the state of Wisconsin, and I’m putting my money on the people of the state of Wisconsin.”
Barrett has consistently hit the first-term Walker for trying to become a national “rock star” for the GOP at his state’s expense. Walker has defended his budget actions as necessary for the fiscal health of his state and framed his campaign as one of a strong leader who is making the necessary “tough decisions.”
Although the race remains tight, the incumbent governor and former Milwaukee County executive has edged out his opponent in three straight polls.
A Marquette Law School survey released Wednesday showed that 52% of people were likely to vote for Walker and 45% for Barrett.
In addition to an influx of ad spending, the state has received high-profile visitors on both sides of the political aisle. Former President Clinton, Wasserman Schultz and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, campaigned last week on behalf of Barrett.
Meanwhile, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley visited the state to bolster Walker on Friday. She was the latest in a string of national Republicans - including Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida - to travel to Wisconsin.
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