Politics has become a blood sport in Wisconsin.
Usually, it's Illinois politicians who engage in rough-and-tumble politics that make the squeamish squirm while it's the Wisconsin pols who stay above the fray.
But the Cheeseheads are involved in a monumental fight made possible by a political tool that is available in only a handful of states and rarely used even then — the recall election.
Union foes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker last week filed recall petitions containing more than 1 million signatures, setting up a showdown over who will run the state.
Walker, a Republican, was elected in 2010, and he promptly set about solving the state's financial problems, in part, by reining in the power of the state's public employee unions. By the time he finished, public employee unions were stripped of much of their considerable collective bargaining power.
The donnybrook drew the nation's attention, particularly when Wisconsin's Democratic legislators fled to Illinois to avoid having to perform their legislative duties.
Walker sold his policies as a means of eliminating the state's $1 billion-plus debt and allowing local government more flexibility in solving their own financial problems.
As policy, Walker's moves have had the intended effect. As politics, union leaders and members were outraged and vowed retaliation.
The unions first sought to recall Republican legislators and replace them with Democrats. But they didn't win enough of the special elections. Now they're going after Walker, his lieutenant governor and other legislators in the hope of erasing the 2010 election results.
It'll be a heck of a fight. Walker said he's more than happy to defend his record, and the unions are more than happy to try to exact revenge against him. The recall election won't be held until May or June, but the campaign already is nasty and will get nastier.