What exactly the recall election meant or means in Wisconsin politics is, of course, years away from being full understood. However, much of the emergent punditocracy's narrative strikes me as being foolish and wrong and based on a bunch of assumptions that don't hold up to sustained scrutiny.
It is difficult to see how the Walker victory constitutes a resounding defeat for the coalition of unions, workers, and politically active leftists. That coalition has now in place a million something network of politically engaged voters; it has a clear message that abhors the ALEC-based retreat to the 19th century; it has stopped an further rightward shift or shenanigans in the immediate future.
Given that, as everyone pointed out, how Obama was AWOL from the fracas it is difficult to see this election as having any bearing on the up-coming presidential election.
The election also, it seems to me, threw the tactics, strategies, and philosophical orientation of Walker and Barret supporters into sharp contrast. For the coalition behind Barret this was largely a state campaign waged with instate money, volunteers, and related etc over issues specific to Wisconsin. For Walker's campaign this was a national campaign which drew on the power of the plutocrats his policies benefits and the various right-wing organizations that seek to erode the power of state legislatures to set their own agendas, i.e., ALEC.
Indeed, one constant refrain emerging from the noise and confusion is that Walker is a national figure on the right. This indicates, to me in any event, that the way forward for the neoliberal right and conservatives more generally is away from their always dishonest commitment to states' rights and toward and ever more powerful and autocratic centralized state.
On the plus side:
The Salem runner was last in the race and she picked up the other runner after she collapsed and made sure she crossed the finish line a head of her.