Christie Uses GOP Star Power To Help Embattled Walker

By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown
By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown

Oak Creek, Wisconsin (CNN) – Faced with the threat of losing his job in a bitter recall election, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pressed his case with the help of a Republican rock star: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Both men attended two public events in Wisconsin: an early afternoon fundraiser in Green Bay and, later, a rally in front of a wildly supportive crowd at a landscaping company in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek.

Politically speaking, there was something in it for both men.

Walker faces a June 5 recall election after biting criticism, particularly from labor unions and their Democratic allies, for supporting a February 2011 bill that stripped state employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.

The men do not exactly agree on that toxic issue. Though Christie cut some public sector spending in 2011, including employee pensions and benefits, the Garden State governor is in favor of collective bargaining rights.

"With the public interest in mind first," Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak said. New Jersey and Wisconsin are "not peas in a pod," Drewniak added, citing their myriad different economic issues.

Drewniak stressed that the Christie administration is engaged in collective bargaining with the Communications Workers of America in New Jersey.

Christie and Walker's differences on the matter were not on display Tuesday as Christie rallied to the side of his GOP counterpart.

Taking the stage after Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who also is facing recall, Walker began with a highly personal note before firing up his supporters.

"So many people have said to us, you know, over the past year, 'How do you put up with all the grief?'" Walker said, adding that "thousands" of people have been bused in front of his private home.

"How do you put up with your kids being targeted on Facebook? With all the other grief along the way?" Walker continued.

"You see, for every one person like that there are nine- or tenfold that I know in factories or farms or small businesses all across the state who say: 'Governor, we're praying for you.' And that means the world to us."

Walker rattled off a list of his administration's accomplishments. Among them: "Our unemployment rate has dropped down to 6.8%, the lowest it's been since 2008;" 15,600 new private sector jobs in the first three months of this year; and employers ready to add more this year.

"You know what the biggest concern [employers] have about whether they're going to add those jobs now or a few months down the road? It's the recall," Walker said. "Because you see, they understand that we can either go forward or backwards."

Christie echoed those themes.

"New Jersey went through this battle and is going through this battle," Christie said, citing his administration's actions since taking office.

Christie said New Jersey will cut income taxes "by July 1," and cited $2.3 billion in business tax cuts.

Christie asked rhetorically how his state could do this.

"Because we treated the people of New Jersey like adults. We told them the truth. We told them that they had dug a hole, their government had put them in that hole and the only way to fix our state was to help each other climb out of that hole. And it's going to be hard. Everyone is going to have to sacrifice," Christie said.

"But I promised them this: if we sacrifice together, we'd benefit together. So this year, they sacrificed for two years. Now, in year three, everyone will get a tax cut in the state of New Jersey."

"I tell you this story not to brag about ourselves. I tell you this story to show you what next year is going to look like if you do the right thing on June 5," Christie added.

Aside from the benefits of pushing conservative ideals, campaigning together also offers political benefits for both men.

Walker's campaign benefits because Christie is a wildly popular Republican governor and also one whose frequent straight-in-your-face approach plainly lays out the benefits of conservative governance. Christie can claim some credit should Walker prevail, while also receiving likely GOP praise for rushing to the side of an embattled fellow conservative.

The Democratic Governor's Association lumped both men together in what it deemed a faction of failure.

Before the Walker-Christie campaign events, Communications Director Kate Hansen said in a statement, "While we're sure the New Jersey governor's blustering rhetoric will be a perfect match for Walker's overreaching, divisive attacks on workers' rights and women's rights, Walker and Christie won't have much to talk about in the job creation department."

Hansen continued: "While Walker tries desperately to whitewash his worst-in-the-nation job creation record ahead of the June 5 recall election, Christie probably isn't the best choice to talk up Walker's failed leadership: while Wisconsin lost 4,300 private sector jobs in March, New Jersey lost nearly triple that number, at 11,600."

CNN asked the New Jersey Republican State Committee about Hansen's criticisms.

"Gov. Christie is proud to support another Republican governor who, like himself, faced seemingly insurmountable problems upon being elected and is meeting the challenge by making tough choices, like closing a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes on families," wrote Communications Director Douglass V. Mayer. "The governor will stand with leaders who make the right decisions, not just the choices that are politically expedient."

Recent polls show a tight race between Walker and his likely Democratic opponents: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett or Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.

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