Scott Walker lends Mitt Romney a hand in Wisconsin

JANESVILLE, Wis. -- For diehard Republicans in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker achieved something close to rock-star status when he battled labor unions and survived a June 5 recall election.

His popularity among true believers was so great that he upstaged Mitt Romney when Walker and the Republican presidential hopeful spoke in late March at the same party dinner a few nights before the Wisconsin primary.

So the Romney campaign knew better than to let Walker do it again on Monday at a Romney rally here in a sweltering textile mill.

The solution: Have the pair introduced simultaneously, letting Romney bask in the Walker-style whoops and cheers that he sometimes has trouble drawing on his own. The task fell to Dan Sinykin, chief executive of Monterey Mills, a maker of fabric for paint rollers and stuffed animals.

He began: “It’s my pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce your governor…”

Hoots and hollers began rising from the crowd of several hundred.

“…Scott Walker and the next president of the United States, Mitt Romney.”

Cheers, more exuberant than usual for Romney, erupted as he and Walker walked on stage together.

In remarks to the audience, Walker was more accommodating than he’d been at the March dinner, dropping the boasts about Wisconsin job growth that clashed with Romney’s gloomy review of the economy under President Obama. (Another Republican governor who has developed a habit of contradicting Romney on the economy’s health, John Kasich of Ohio, was nowhere to be found at Romney’s five events in his state over the last week.)

Walker also praised Romney for rescuing the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and cutting taxes as governor of Massachusetts, not mentioning that Romney also raised taxes.

“As governor, he took a state where he inherited a whole lot of debt, turned it around and still found a way to cut taxes, time and time again, to get his economy going in his state,” Walker said. “Wouldn’t that be nice to have a president who thought like that?”

Romney assured the crowd he was making a play for Wisconsin, despite there being no sign yet of the sort of saturation TV advertising that he has poured into Virginia, Ohio and other more competitive states.

“I think President Obama had just put this in his column. He just assumed from the very beginning Wisconsin was going to be his,” Romney said.

“No!” people in the crowd shouted.

“But you know what?” Romney went on. “We’re going to win Wisconsin. We’re going to get the White House.”

In 2008, Obama beat John McCain in Wisconsin by 14 percentage points. Polls show Obama holding a narrower lead over Romney this time.

In his speech, Romney ridiculed Obama for promising to fight for an economy that gives everyone a fair shot.

“Look, if there’s ever been a president who’s not been able to provide to the American people a fair shot, it’s this president,” he said.

Also on stage was Rep. Paul Ryan, whose hometown is Janesville. The House Budget Committee chairman is the latest in a string of potential Romney running mates to appear alongside the candidate on his six-state tour of small-town America, but the first to have his vetting mentioned openly – by Sinykin.

“Gov. Romney, we’re in Congressman Ryan’s hometown,” Sinykin said, as Ryan broke into an “aw-shucks” grin and the crowd applauded. “He’s right here, if you have an announcement to make.”

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