|Democratic challenger and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (L) and Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election, talk during a debate held at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin May 31, 2012. (REUTERS/Darren Hauck)
WASHINGTON, D.C. Wisconsin's lightning-rod Republican Gov. Scott Walker has survived a recall effort to boot him from office, making him the first in U.S. history to do so.
With 70% of precincts reporting at 11 p.m. ET, Walker was winning the bitter and divisive recall fight against his Democrat challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 57% to 42%.
Walker's win Tuesday will signal for many a victory for fiscal conservatives to reign in spending and take on the civil service.
It could also be an indication of how Americans, or at least Wisconsinites, will vote in November's presidential election.
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney congratulated Walker in a statement Tuesday night and added he suspects the same appetite for Walker's austerity reforms in Wisconsin exist nationally, too.
Walker is a controversial Tea Party darling who balanced the state's books in part by stripping the public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights and making them pay more for their health and pension benefits.
The bitter fight, which Democrats complained was the result of Walker's "divide-and-conquer" strategy, began over a year ago when Walker, a rookie governor at the time, picked his fight with the civil service.
In so doing, he wiped away $3.4 billion in deficit but caught the ire of union supporters, who protested by the thousands for weeks and ultimately collected nearly one million signatures, forcing the recall election.
It's the third time in U.S. history a governor has faced one.
Given the national implications, Walker reportedly received tens of millions in campaign funds and support from out-of-state conservatives, and outspent Barrett seven to one.
In total, $62 million was spent on the recall election, with Walker raising
$30 million to Barrett's $4 million.
For Republicans, Walker's win could energize party supporters in the state, making it more difficult for President Barack Obama to win Wisconsin and its
10 electoral college votes again in November, something analysts agree is almost a must if he is to be re-elected.
Republican governors around the country keen to duke it out with their own public sector unions were also watching Wisconsin's results closely.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia even joined Walker on the stump.
Former president Bill Clinton campaigned briefly with Barrett, and Obama offered an endorsement through Twitter.