NBC News has projected that Republican Governor Scott Walker has won an intense recall election in Wisconsin over Democrat Tom Barrett.
Walker, who has faced bitter opposition since he introduced union-busting legislation in early 2011, had been consistently leading in polls and was widely expected to retain his office today. His campaign was aided in large part by out-of-state conservative donations that helped him raise roughly eight times the money that Barrett could muster. The Republican Governors Association and various Tea Party groups infused millions for advertising, and in the last week alone, conservative groups spent $2.5 million on pro-Walker ads, more than double what the Barrett campaign spent. Walker becomes the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt.
msnbc's Ed Schultz offered reassurance to a Barrett-friendly crowd gathered in Madison, Wis., tonight. "There's no embarrassment in the loss," Schultz said. "It was a great night for democracy because the turnout was so great." Schultz said that Barrett's campaign turned in a great effort, but that the results are "not surprising given the money."
10:52 p.m. ET update: The Associated Press reports that a Barrett spokesman said the campaign was not conceding, citing ongoing voting in Milwaukee, Madison and Racine. “We feel very confident when those come in, Tom Barrett is going to win,” Phil Walzak said.
11:30 p.m. ET update: Mayor Tom Barrett conceded the race, urging his supporters to stay energized and engaged in the political process. "Never ever stop doing what you think is right," he said.