February 24, 2011- 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.
Walker spurred massive protests in his state earlier this month with a "budget repair bill" that proposes scaling back public workers' benefits, as well as their collective bargaining rights, among other things. The dramatic showdown continues in the state, even though public sector unions have agreed to scale back their benefits for the sake of deficit reduction.
Public workers and their supporters argue that eliminating most public unions' collective bargaining rights has nothing to do with the budget and that the governor should drop that element of his plan. Walker isn't budging, however, and several other politicians in the GOP have his back.
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 also launched a petition on his political action committee website to gather public support for Walker.
"Governor Scott Walker is making tough choices needed to avoid financial ruin," the website reads. "The nation's governors don't need a lecture from a President who has never balanced a budget. All levels of government need to bring public employee compensation in line with the private sector… I'm confident Governor Walker's reforms will succeed in Wisconsin. Stand strong, Scott — average taxpayers everywhere are rooting for you."
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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.
"It is vital that every one of us help Governor Scott Walker today," Gingrich writes. He urges readers to call their elected representatives and ask them to back the Wisconsin governor.