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PORTSIDE  April 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE April 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Why Scott Walker Is Avoiding Mitt Romney

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Date:

Wed, 4 Apr 2012 22:21:11 -0400

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Why Scott Walker Is Avoiding Mitt Romney

John Nichols 
The Nation 
April 2, 2012
http://www.thenation.com/blog/167171/why-scott-walker-avoiding-mitt-romney?rel=emailNation

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker toured the state
on the eve of Tuesday's Republican presidential
primary, he visited many of the same cities and regions
where Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were campaigning.

But Walker scrupulously avoided visiting those
communities at the same time as the candidates.

There's a reason for the embattled governor's avoidance
of the Republicans who would be president. And there's
also a reason why they might want to avoid being seen
with him.

The arrival of the Republican presidential campaign in
Wisconsin serves to emphasize the governor's rigid
adherence to the dictates of the same corporate donors
who have made the Romney, Santorum and Newt Gingrich
campaigns possible. Indeed, the presidential candidates
are going out of their way to remind voters that Scott
Walker is the local embodiment of the "Wall Street
first" ethos that defines the GOP these days.

That's a problem for the governor, who wants to appeal
to moderate and independent voters in the June 5 recall
election that could remove him from office. But that
won't shut up Romney, Santorum and Gingrich. Unlike Ron
Paul, who is appealing to independent voters and has
not talked much about Walker, Romney and Santorum have
talked about almost nothing but Walker as they have
appealed to the narrow base of Republican die-hards who
will participate in what's likely to be a low-turnout
April 3 primary.

Romney and Santorum think that the way to win
Wisconsin's Republican primary on April 3 is to
position themselves as big backers of Governor Scott
Walker's anti-labor agenda.

Romney's major appearance in the vicinity of the
state's second largest city, Madison, was on Saturday
at a suburban call center where Walker backers are
trying-in  preparation for the recall race-to identify
supporters of the governor. Romney used the event, as
he has others across the state, to hail Walker as a
"hero."

Santorum, who actually made calls at a Walker office
last week, has been even more effusive in his praise of
the embattled governor, telling crowds they have to
work to prevent the recalls of Walker and Lieutenant
Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. "Please continue to lead
and defend these two great public officials," he told
the crowd in Waukesha County.

But you won't hear Walker thanking the presidential
candidates for their support. Even when the governor is
in the vicinity of the GOP contenders-at party
functions, for instance-he leaves a good distance
between himself and Romney and Santorum. And as the
primary approaches, Walker is scheduling himself away
from the candidates.

Why? Because the governor recognizes that he is in the
fight of his political life, and the last thing he
wants is to reemphasize why that fight has developed by
appearing with Republican presidential candidates who
are highlighting precisely the policies that got Walker
in political hot water.

Republican operatives quietly acknowledge that the
governor would prefer that the GOP contenders talk
about anything but fights with unions-and assaults on
collective bargaining rights.

But the candidates are going there-aggressively.

Romney poured money into buying automated "robo-calls,"
which are going into the homes of Republican,
independent and even Democratic homes with anti-union
messages. "As you know the fight against big labor led
by Gov. Walker isn't over, here in Wisconsin," say the
Romney calls. "I was shocked to find out that Rick
Santorum repeatedly supported big labor and joined with
liberal Democrats in voting against right-to-work
legislation during his time in Washington."

In the "am-too, am-not" debate that characterizes the
Republican race, Santorum replies: "Calling Rick
Santorum a friend of labor is like calling Mitt Romney
a conservative. Neither are true."

There's a reason why the GOP contenders are stumbling
over one another to out-Walker Walker. "Let's face it,
this presidential primary is different from any other
because it's taking the backseat politically to the
recall, and it's completely different," says former
state Senator Ted Kanavas, a key Romney backer. "It's
the only state in the union, I can guarantee you, where
presidential politics isn't as important as something
else. The recall's all people are talking about
politically."

So the candidates are trying to tap into the energy
among conservatives who are focused on the recall race.

To that end, Romney has cut new television
advertisements that align his message with that of
Walker's austerity agenda, closing with the former
Massachusetts governor declaring: "It's high time to
bring those principles of fiscal responsibility to
Washington, D.C."

Santorum came into Wisconsin sounding the same theme.
"Of course I'm looking forward to doing whatever I can
(to aid Walker)," he says. "I think we're going to
maybe try to swing by throughout the week one of the
call centers here to try to help the governor and his
effort. As someone who understands tough political
fights and someone who stood up to the establishment as
this governor has done, we want to give every bit of
support we can to someone who has the courage to
confront the tough issues. And it shows you we're
willing to do the same kind of thing in Washington,
D.C."

In a sense, Gingrich is going his opponents one better.
When I interviewed Gingrich about Walker, he said he'd
be glad to come campaign for the governor-or to stay
away, if that would be more helpful. "Scott Walker's
fight in Wisconsin has made him a national leader on
issues important to Republicans. Of course I would
campaign for him," the former speaker said. "But I
would only do that if he asked me. If he didn't want
supporters coming in from outside the state, I'd
respect that."

For all his bombast, Gingrich is actually the smartest
of the Republican contenders-as his comment
illustrates.

Walker is in trouble in Wisconsin for a lot of reasons.
But above all, there is a sense that he has governed
not as a servant of the people of Wisconsin but as an
errand boy for billionaire conservative donors such as
David and Charles Koch and the national movements they
fund. Instead of developing ideas that respond to the
ideals and demands of Wisconsinites, Walker's always
rushing off to Washington or New York or Texas or
Arizona or Florida to consult with right-wing "think
tanks"-and, of course, to collect checks for a campaign
that, according to its latest report, took in 61
percent of its money from out of state.

Walker is mounting a multimillion-dollar advertising
blitz-funded with all that out-of-state money-to foster
the fantasy that he is trying to do right by Wisconsin.
The last thing he needs is a bunch of Republican
presidential candidates reminding Wisconsinites that
their governor is not thinking for himself; he's
parroting the same right-wing groupthink as the GOP
presidential candidates. Polls suggest most
Americans-including a good many Republicans-recognize
that agenda as a sellout to corporate CEOs and Wall
Street speculators.

Walker will be a very happy man when the Republicans
who would be president exit the state on April 3. And
he won't be inviting any of them-not even Newt
Gingrich-back before the recall election.

After the recall election, of course, it will be
different. Walker could well have all the time in the
world to spend with Romney, Santorum and Gingrich. By
that point, however, the Republican contenders might
not be that interested in being seen with Walker. It's
not just that governors who are recalled tend to lose a
lot of their appeal as political "heroes." It's also
that Walker, in addition to a reelection campaign fund,
also has a legal defense fund.

The governor recently hired a pair of top criminal-
defense lawyers to help him respond to an investigation
that has already yielded multiple felony charges
against his aides and campaign contributors, might be
carrying a lot more baggage than an election defeat by
the time the Republican National Convention rolls
around.

John Nichols's new book on protests and politics is
Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of
Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, just out from
Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter
@NicholsUprising.

___________________________________________

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