After Walker victory, Romney sees opportunity for Republicans with rank-and-file union members

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

At a fundraising lunch Wednesday, Mitt Romney cheered Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's victory in the state's recall election, suggesting it's a sign of hope for Republican candidates this fall.

"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 roughly 400 supporters at a fundraising lunch in San Antonio.

Noting that Republicans "don't win a lot in Wisconsin," Romney suggested yesterday's results were driven by "the people of Wisconsin doing the right thing and voting for conservative principles."

"Even though they may have been Democrat or independent, they looked at the record of a strong conservative who cut back on the size of government, who held down taxes, who said we have to reform, in this case public sector unions that have asked for too much, and… went to the polls," Romney said.

The former Massachusetts governor largely avoided involvement in the Wisconsin recall election. He mentioned it only fleetingly when campaigning in the state in April and did not campaign on Walker's behalf ahead of this week's election. But per a Romney aide, the GOP nominee phoned Walker to congratulate him on his victory.

Republicans have embraced Walker's victory as a good sign for Romney in Wisconsin. President Obama won the state by 14 points in 2008, but the state is now considered a toss-up heading into November.

Speaking at Wednesday's fundraiser, where donors paid as much as $50,000 for a chance to meet Romney, the GOP nominee slammed Obama's ties to unions, suggesting the Democratic party puts their interests above other Americans because of campaign contributions. Romney singled out Obama's ties to teacher's unions, calling their opposition to education reform "a tragedy."

"There is no question that he will follow the bidding of the people who write the checks to his campaign," Romney said.

But, he added, Republicans have an opportunity to make in-roads with the union's rank-and-file.

"The union members, they'll support us," Romney said. "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."