"I don't understand what he stood to lose in Wisconsin. I can't make that make sense," Hastings said in an interview. He wondered if Obama had been overly worried about alienating the "3 or 4 percent Republicans that may have voted for him the last time," and added, "Nobody, nobody knows what so-called independents are going to do." In 2008, Obama won the state, 56-42 percent.
Labor is a core Democratic constituency, and Hastings fears that Walker's win will provide cover for efforts to undermine collective bargaining rights for unions.
On Wednesday, House Republicans emerging from their weekly closed-door meeting said the mood was clearly upbeat after the Wisconsin win and the task ahead will be keeping high political expectations in check.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, cast the message in economic terms and oft-repeated GOP arguments.
"The American people have had it with big government, high taxes and a regulatory system that knows no bounds, and they want elected officials to take control of the situation so the American job creators can go back to doing what they do best, creating jobs," Boehner told reporters.
The economy trumps all issues, and the worse-than-expected 69,000 jobs created in May and an uptick in the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent worry Democrats.
"That's a bad number so there's concern," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. "We can defend the Obama record. We've created jobs. The legacy of the Bush collapse is real. But what affects the mood, traditionally it's been the economy as perceived by voters about six months out. .... All of us are obviously hoping for better job numbers."
Welch said if the public perception is of an economy getting better, as it was until May, "then it's much more favorable to the election being a choice between Obama and Romney. My view, Obama wins that easily. If it becomes just a referendum on Obama, i.e., the economy, then we're playing more defense than we want to."
The next batch of jobs numbers comes out July 6.
The upcoming Supreme Court decision on health care is a painful reminder to Democrats that Americans favor some elements of the massive law aimed at extending medical insurance to more than 30 million Americans but the far-reaching overhaul has never gained broad approval.
"I'm amazed at the high negatives," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. "Republicans have done a good job demonizing the bill, and evidently we haven't done a good enough job explaining it or people haven't paid enough attention because it's a complicated piece of legislation."
Democrats point to the more popular provisions — the law's banning denial of coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26 and reducing Americans' Medicare prescription drug costs by closing the "donut hole."
The main issue for the court is the constitutionality of the individual insurance requirement. Opponents argue that Congress lacked the authority under the Constitution to force Americans to buy insurance.
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