AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. Just under an hour from now, polls close across Wisconsin, where voters are deciding the fate of first-term Republican Governor Scott Walker. If Walker wins today's recall election, he stays in office. If he loses, Democratic nominee Tom Barrett becomes governor. Barrett is currently the mayor of Milwaukee. The vote caps off 16 months of bare-knuckled politics in Wisconsin. The recall was prompted by Walker's push shortly after taking office to dramatically limit the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions. Today, Mayor Barrett described the election as historic.
MAYOR TOM BARRETT: And we are just fortunate to be here at this time, trying to make sure that our government represents us and not interests that don't care about this state.
SIEGEL: And this morning, Governor Walker recognized the need to heal the state's political wounds.
GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER: Certainly, we're going to have the honor of winning the election tonight. I'll certainly talk about ways to bring the state together this evening. But the most important thing we can do is actually not just talk about it but do it. And I think tomorrow will be the first of many steps.
SIEGEL: Well, joining me now are NPR's David Schaper and Don Gonyea, both of whom are in Wisconsin. And first to Don, who is at Governor Scott Walker's election headquarters in Waukesha. Don, Walker described himself yesterday as cautiously optimistic. Does that reflect the mood there tonight?
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Yes. They are looking at these very high turnout numbers across the state. They're not quite sure what to make of it. Both candidates have been saying they want very high turnout. But still, you know, the polls were generally trending Walker's way over the last week or so - some of them still have it very close. But, again, that high turnout - nobody quite knows what to make of it.
SIEGEL: Well, let's turn now to NPR's David Schaper. He's at Mayor Tom Barrett's election night event in Milwaukee. David, what are you hearing from people there?
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Well, the Barrett campaign is cautiously optimistic as well, and they believe that the strong turnout bodes well for Mayor Barrett. Some of the turnout figures I just heard from his spokesman were 119 percent turnout in Madison. And the way that that's possible is that you can register the day-of the election. And that means that a lot of people who didn't vote in 2010 in that governor's race - which was narrow but won by - this is a rematch of this race - so, it was won by Scott Walker pretty handily. Many more people are turning out in Democratic strongholds - Milwaukee and Madison - this time around.
SIEGEL: David, let's turn back to Don Gonyea, who's at Governor Walker's headquarters. Don, how do you think the presidential campaigns of President Obama and the Republican, Mitt Romney, look at this race in Wisconsin?
GONYEA: They were just a little wary of it. You know, each of them had their guy in the race. Mitt Romney backed months ago when the Republicans were holding their presidential primary here, you know, talked about Walker and said he's doing marvelous things and really praised him. But he hasn't come here since the actual recall election got underway. President Obama kept his distance as well. The Republican National Committee was all-in. Of course, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the RNC is from Wisconsin. The DNC was a little more cautious. But, Robert, I can tell you the president put out a tweet last night. Depending on the outcome, people will say it was just enough or too little too late. He tweeted last night from his official account: It's election day in Wisconsin tomorrow and I'm standing by Tom Barrett. He'd make an outstanding governor. That was it.
SIEGEL: I have one question for both of you very quickly: I wonder what you're hearing there from people in Wisconsin, which is - and we'll start with you, David Schaper - do people describe this as a choice like any other gubernatorial election or do they regard it as something special to recall the governor? Is it a different bar they're applying? I've lost David Schaper, but, Don, what do you hear from people about that?
GONYEA: I mean, I think different people see it different ways. I can tell you this one's a lot more personal. I mean, people have, you know, chosen up sides and they're fighting in families and amongst friends. So, I think that they look at it differently.
SIEGEL: And on that note, guys, I'm going to have to let it go. And we all look forward to hearing the results from Wisconsin when the polls close at 8 p.m. Central, 9 p.m. Eastern. That was NPR's Don Gonyea at Republican Governor Scott Walker's headquarters in Waukesha, Wisconsin and David Schaper reporting from Milwaukee, where Democratic challenger Tom Barrett is awaiting today's election results. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.