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.