From POLITICAL HOTSHEET at CBS NEWS:
As the conflict in Wisconsin shifts from a battle over budget deficits into an ideological debate, some high-profile Republicans — potential presidential contenders — are lining up behind Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Former Minnesota governor and possible presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty released a video today that uses dramatic music and quick cuts of protest footage to show support for Walker. At the end of the minute-long video, Pawlenty is shown on a news program saying, “It’s really important that America stand with Walker, stand with Wisconsin.”
Pawlenty’s website fails to mention the unions’ willingness to compromise, or the fact that Wisconsin’s budget problems could be solved with other, non-controversial measures.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another potential GOP presidential nominee, just published a public appeal on the conservative website Human Events for support for Walker.
“In Madison, Wisconsin, we are witnessing a profound struggle between the right of the people to govern themselves and the power of entrenched, selfish interests to stop reforms and defy the will of the people,” Gingrich writes. “However, through a campaign of intimidation and cowardice, the government employee union bosses and the Democratic Party that is beholden to them, are trying to thwart the will of the people.”
He calls the conflict “one of the most important struggles in modern America,” as well as a “life and death struggle with the forces of the old order.”
Gingrich also notes that he was an early supporter of Walker’s and blasts President Obama for supporting the unions.
In an interview on CBSNews.com’s “Washington Unplugged” yesterday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he would advise Walker to “stand tall, stay firm.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is giving $5,000 to the Wisconsin Republican Party through his political action committee, Politico reports.
“Liberal big government interests are fighting efforts to rein in out-of-control public employee pay and benefits in Wisconsin,” Romney said in a statement today. “It is critical that we stand with the Wisconsin GOP as it stands up for the rights of the taxpayer.”
Yesterday, the Hotsheet reported on the support Walker has received from conservative groups like the Tea Party and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity.
Walker said this week he communicates regularly with Republican Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, suggesting he isn’t the only governor willing to take on public unions.
“There’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big,” Walker said [during a prank phonecall he thought was from
his bossbillionaire David Koch] this week. “This is our moment.”
Similar protests over anti-union bills have erupted in Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere, but not all Republican governors are following Walker’s lead. Yesterday, Indiana Republicans dropped their controversial bill after Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said it wasn’t worth pursuing at this point.