The Paper Chase, Wisconsin Edition

MILWAUKEE — “I’d like to welcome you all to my lecture on tort law in Indonesia,” Tom Barrett quipped as he sat down at an empty table at the front of a crowded lecture hall thirty minutes before the scheduled start of his debate with Governor Scott Walker tonight.

The joke pointed to a quirk of Wisconsin’s now perpetual election season, and its success at politicizing nearly everything in the state: the fact that a law school has become a hub of campaign activity. Longtime local TV anchor Mike Gousha joined Marquette University Law School as a fellow in 2007 and has—in a way not entirely in line with the typical mission of a law faculty—set out to make it a player in Wisconsin politcs.

Not only did the school win the right to host one of two debates between Walker and Barrett, but it has produced some of the race’s only polling in an era when few local media can afford to run their own surveys anymore. According to a campus official, the school had planned to go into the field with its first polls in 2012, but like many Wisconsin political entrepreneurs has benefited to find electioneering continuously in the air. “It just so happens this was the year we had a recall,” says the school’s Brigid Miller.