PEWAUKEE, Wisc. -- The drama facing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took center stage at a GOP dinner here Saturday, where presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and other high profile Republicans – including Walker himself – addressed several hundred activists days before this state’s April 3 primary.
Walker, who faces a recall election on June 5th, was the center of gravity among a roster of national Republican stars – demonstrating the national import of a battle threatening to pull attention and resources away from the presidential race.
Calling Walker the "anti-Barack Obama," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus cast the recall as a prelude to the Presidential election, declaring, "Anything Scott Walker needs from the RNC, Scott Walker’s going to get from the RNC."
"This is not even just about Scott Walker. It's not," Priebus said. "This is about whether or not in this country we can elect people of their word, who clearly lay out their agenda before they’re elected."
But earlier, during his own remarks, Walker conceded he should have won more support for his controversial budget plan, which set in motion a fight over collective bargaining rights for public sector unions.
"Along the way, should I have spent some more time maybe explaining? Absolutely," Walker said, adding, of his state’s budget crisis, "I bet you a lot of taxpayers would have said, 'Governor, you need to fix this.'"
The remarks were a noticeable act of modesty before a crowd that seemed sympathetic to Walker’s view of the drama that played out at this state’s capital building last year.
"The whole thing is coming to a crescendo. It’s coming to a crescendo on June the 5th here in Wisconsin," Rep. Paul Ryan – who endorsed Romney last week – told the crowd here.
As for the candidates themselves, Romney declared Walker a "hero," and Santorum called for the crowd to support Walker and his Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, who also faces recall.
"Please continue to lead and defend these two great public officials," Santorum said.