GREEN BAY, Wisc. – Gov. Chris Christie may be one of Mitt Romney's top backers, but Tuesday he hit the campaign trail for another national Republican figure who is running a tough race with major national consequences.
The outspoken New Jersey governor lent his support to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is facing a historic recall election on June 5. Speaking to over 200 donors in Green Bay, Christie made no mention of the presidential contest – nor of rampant speculation that he may be in the running for the vice presidential slot – but he offered effusive praise for Walker's efforts to reform public employee unions in the state.
"The course that he pursued here in Wisconsin tells you a great deal about this man's character," Christie said of Walker's persistence in the face of searing criticism from liberal and union groups nationwide.
Christie painted Walker's unusual upcoming contest - Walker would be the third governor in U.S. history to be recalled from office - as a blessing in disguise for his conservative agenda and for the country.
"I think in the long run it's going to turn out to be an advantage for the Walker family," he said, noting how counter-intuitive that analysis might sound.
"I know they're going to win on June 5. I know they are. And when they do, they're going to have that rare moment for a political figure that he's done all the tough things that need to be done, the state is starting once again to move forward and he doesn't have to wait for four years to get affirmation for the course he's chosen by the people he's leading."
Christie said the Walkers are personally close to his family, in part because of their shared experience of facing protesters and seeing their loved ones under the glare of public scrutiny.
"Our families have become friends because we understand the challenges of raising children when you're in the public eye and especially when you're doing controversial things," he said.
(They are so close, in fact, that the New Jersey governor described his teenage daughter begging to come to the state with her father because "she likes the Walker boys," an admission that won knowing giggles from fellow parents of teenagers in the room.)
Walker, who spoke before Christie, chalked up the recall effort to Washington special interests and labor "bosses" who fight reforms that could hurt a status quo engineered to benefit them alone.
"There's a handful of special interests, particularly in Washington, that don't like it when we get in the way of power and money," Walker said.
"They want a handful of big government union bosses to dictate what happens in our schools and our cities and our towns and our state governments. We want the hardworking taxpayers of our states and our communities to make that decision, and when time comes about, every time I'm going to stand with the taxpayers," Walker said.
Both men have become conservative icons for their tough-talking focus on government efficiency, with the famously brash Christie being discussed as a possible pick for Romney's running mate.
Christie fanned the flames of speculation Monday, when he told a group of students that he could be "convinced" by Romney to take the job.
Tickets for the Green Bay event started at $200 per couple, with some guests paying $2,500 for a private reception with the two men. Christie also accompanied Walker to a second rally in South Milwaukee.
About two dozen protesters greeted the two Republican governors on the street outside the convention center where the Green Bay fundraiser was held. Although most of the activists' ire was focused on Walker's controversial record on union issues, one sign needled the New Jersey governor over the departure of his state's previously Newark-based NBA team, which will move to New York next season.
"HEY Gov. Christie!" read the handwritten poster. "Go Brooklyn Nets!!"