NBC News, Fox News and CNN on Tuesday projected that Republican Gov. Scott Walker would defeat his Democratic challenger, Milwaulkee mayor Tom Barrett, in Wisconsin's recall elections.
"Our models indicate once all votes are counted, Walker's final margin will be somewhere in 4-6 point range," NBC News reporter Chuck Todd said.
When polls closed at 8 p.m., race was too close to call. Exit polls showed a 50-50 split between Walker and Barrett. But with 35 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results showed that Walker had 59 percent of the vote to Barrett's 40 percent.
All of the Republicans facing a recall election defeated their challenger on Tuesday night. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and state Sens. Scott Fitzgerald, Van Wanggaard, Terry Moulton and Jerry Petrowski all won.
“This is a great victory for Wisconsin families," Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Brad Courtney said. "Wisconsinites made it very clear they want to continue moving our state forward, and that’s why Wisconsinites returned to the polls once again and cast their vote for Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch."
The state Government Accountability Board reported long lines due to the heavy turnout from the historic election. Voter turnout was so high that some polling places in Wisconsin ran out of ballots and forms, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
"The issue is there are a lot of people waiting in line to register to vote but there are no forms," said Janet Veum, communications coordinator for Wisconsin Jobs Now. "We know that hundreds of people have not voted because there were no forms available."
Earlier Tuesday, Barrett’s campaign said that Wisconsin residents received automated phone calls falsely claiming that if they had signed a recall petition against Walker, then they didn't have to cast a ballot because their signature had already been counted as a vote. The state Government Accountability Board told Talking Points Memo that it was unable to verify the alleged calls. Similar calls allegedly occurred during the 2011 recall elections.
The recall elections were the culmination of months of effort by state Democrats and labor unions who spearheaded a backlash against the first-term governor, who ran afoul of public opinion last year. Shortly after taking office, the well-funded tea party favorite joined Republicans in the state senate in attempting to strip public labor unions of their ability to collectively bargain.
Last year, Wisconsin Democrats picked up two seats in the state Senate after defeating incumbent Republicans in recall elections. But Democrats fell short of the three seats needed to gain a majority.
[Updated after publication]