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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

2012 GOP Hopefuls See Wisconsin As Obama Bashing Opportunity

Callie Schweitzer |
February 21, 2011 | 4:59 p.m. PST


Protesters in Wisconsin. (Photos courtesy of Amber Appelbaum)
Protesters in Wisconsin. (Photos courtesy of Amber Appelbaum)

Though many 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls remained mum on foreign policy issues like the turmoil in Egypt, Wisconsin has proved to be a gold mine for bashing Obama, the Democrats and the unions in one fell swoop.

Just 21 months before the 2012 election, the GOP's presidential hopefuls are using the situation in Wisconsin as an opportunity to wage war against unions and side with Gov. Scott Walker who is calling for union pay cuts and the end of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.

Taking a strong stand against Walker's plan, Obama called it an "assault on unions," and POLITICO reports that "some have charged that the president’s political operation, Organizing for America, is aiding and abetting the protests."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Obama was "trying to make this class warfare.”

“This is a president who would not be sitting in that office were it not for public-sector unions who rallied for him in a significant way,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “He didn’t have to go this far.”

In a statement former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, “The nation’s governors don’t need a lecture from a president who has never balanced a budget."

He praised Walker, who is a Republican, for making "tough choices needed to avoid financial ruin.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Friday that the unions are fighting "the wrong fight at the wrong time."

"[R]eal solidarity means everyone being willing to sacrifice," she said.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels sided with Walker Monday on a Chicago radio station saying the Wisconsin governor is "only doing what he said he'd do."

Daniels denied any comparisons between protests in Wisconsin and those in Egypt.

"There's different kinds of protest. There's the protests in the Middle East, which is the dispossessed and the underdogs of society saying, 'We want our freedom.' Then there's the protests in Wisconsin, which is people who make a lot more money, with a lot more benefits and job security than the taxpayers who fund them, saying, 'We like it the way it is and we want more.' And you know, that's a very very different arrangement."

Daniels dismissed Obama's siding with the unions saying, "I think very sincerely the president thinks things will work better if the government makes most of the decision and is in charge of our lives, and people like Gov. Walker and I, for that matter, disagree."

On Twitter, former Massachusetts governor and 2008 Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney praised Walker "for doing what's necessary to rein in out-of-control public-sector pay and benefits."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said, "I support Gov. Walker's strong action to balance his budget," adding, "I know him and I trust him and I support him."

Though he is considered a long-shot for the 2012 GOP nomination, Herman Cain said, “This is the kind of thing that the American people are going to have to stand up for in order to not be bullied by the unions and bullied by this administration.”

Earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Cain said, "[S]tupid people are ruining America."

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Feb. 8 shows the Republican Party is sharply divided over their best candidate in 2012.

Of those surveyed, 21 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican said they would support Huckabee if he decides to run. Palin was close behind with 19 percent of the support. Romney came in at 18 percent.

But the top GOP hopefuls in 2011 may mean nothing in 2012.

The current standing of Huckabee, Palin and Romney could be "mostly a matter of name recognition."

"Keep in mind that Joe Lieberman and Rudy Giuliani - both relatively famous when they decided to run for president - were ahead in polls conducted in 2003 and 2007," said CNN's Polling Director Keating Holland. "Neither man won a single primary or caucus once the voting started."

Though many are unsure of whether early polling matters, Republicans do appear concerned by the uphill battle they may face.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Huckabee said Obama "is going to be much tougher to beat than people in our party think."

"He's going to have a clear ride through to the Democratic nomination, because no one is going to oppose him or challenge him. He's going to start out with a billion dollars, no opponent, so he can save his money to the last four months. He's got a huge social network and he has the power of the incumbency. People underestimate how sweet it is flying on Air Force One with all the trappings of the presidency...[The Republicans] could in fact end up with a demolition derby. Whoever emerges will come out bloody, bruised and broke."

To reach editor-in-chief Callie Schweitzer, click here.
To follow her on Twitter: @cschweitz
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