Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a campaign stop at Southwest… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Mitt Romney, who avoided getting entangled in the Wisconsin recall election, cheered the victory of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, saying voters of varying ideological backgrounds embraced conservative ideals such as reducing the size of government and reforming union power in the public sector.
"My optimism about the country comes in part from the fact that I’m optimistic about the ability of the American people to do the right thing right now. And I say that because of this. What happened yesterday is just another signal – and it will echo throughout the country,” Romney told nearly 400 supporters at a luncheon fundraiser at a hotel here Wednesday. The victory was driven “by the people of Wisconsin doing the right thing and voting for conservative principles," he said.
Both Romney and President Obama avoided engaging in the yearlong campaign to recall Walker, and on Tuesday, Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall effort, winning by seven points over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. That’s particularly notable in a state that has a history of leaning Democratic, last voting for a Republican for president when Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984. Obama won the state by 14 points in 2008.
The ramifications for the 2012 presidential contest are unclear – it’s clearly a warning sign for Obama, but Democrats noted that Walker and his supporters greatly outspent their opponents, an ability that Romney will not likely have against Obama.
At the fundraiser, where supporters paid up to $50,000 each to attend, Romney said Obama and Democrats were beholden to unions, such as the teachers’ union, which he said favors the interests of teachers above children. Reiterating a primary-campaign message that Romney made in labor-friendly states where he drew a distinction between union leaders and union members, Romney also said Republicans can win rank-and-file workers in the fall.
“The union members, they’ll support us. Without the union members who support our campaign and support conservative principles — we wouldn’t have Scott Walker win in Wisconsin if that weren’t the case,” he said.