Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has raised more than $25 million to defend his job in an upcoming recall election, drawing heavily from prominent GOP players outside the state and dwarfing the amounts raised by his Democratic challengers.
Other groups are contributing millions more in advertising, and Walker has leading Republicans campaigning for him, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The governor's fundraising firepower and his broad support among the GOP elite illustrate the challenge facing his opponents. The Democrats who swarmed the state Capitol last year to protest Walker's assault on public unions now have only a month before the historic recall election to counter Republicans who have rallied strongly behind their Wisconsin superstar.
In a sign of how easy it has been for Walker to raise money, his top eight donors accounted for $1.5 million. The two Democratic front-runners raised $1.8 million combined. An unprecedented amount of cash -- about two-thirds of Walker's campaign haul in the last report -- came from outside the state.
"That's a level of outside influence we've never seen before," said Mike McCabe, executive director of the government-watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. "He's been all over the country raising money."
Democratic challenger Kathleen Falk, of Madison, a former Dane County executive, got plenty of out-of-state support as well. Of the $977,000 she raised between Jan. 1 and last week, nearly $449,000, or 45 percent, came from outside Wisconsin. Another $25,000 came from donors who listed no state in their address.
Her chief rival in the Democratic primary, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, raised $831,500 during that same span. Eleven percent, or $92,600, came from out-of-state.
Falk, Barrett and two other Democrats square off in a primary next Tuesday. The winner takes on Walker in the June 5 recall election.
Democrats are counting on an electorate that they say is every bit as energized now as when massive crowds of demonstrators descended on the state capital Madison last year in response to Walker's effort to end collective-bargaining rights for most public employees.
Walker, who ultimately prevailed in the confrontation, said he acted to help the state deal with its budget deficit. But Democrats saw the changes as an all-out attack on unions, one of their key constituencies.
Unions and others had little trouble gathering more than 900,000 signatures to authorize a recall election for Walker. However, Walker took advantage of a quirk in state law to raise $13.1 million between Jan. 18 and last week.
Walker has sought help from fellow rising Republican stars such as Christie, who joined him Tuesday on the campaign trail. The arrangement helps Walker raise money and gives visitors an opportunity to burnish their conservative credentials.