Saturday, August 29, 2015

Christie takes up arms in Wisconsin's civil war

I've been to several states for Republican primaries in the past few months. Beyond partisans and political fanatics, the average, apolitical South Carolinian, Georgian or Tennessean rarely had much passion about the guys I was covering: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum. And then I came to Wisconsin this week, which I had read is the "most polarized state in the country." Turns out that's an accurate assessment.

Christie takes up arms in Wisconsin's civil war

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After hearing Christie´s speech, 68-year-old Del Ellefson of Wisconsin told me: "Love that man." (by Matt Katz)
After hearing Christie's speech, 68-year-old Del Ellefson of Wisconsin told me: "Love that man." (by Matt Katz)

I've been to several states for Republican primaries in the past few months. Beyond partisans and political fanatics, the average, apolitical South Carolinian, Georgian or Tennessean rarely had much passion about the guys I was covering: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum.

And then I came to Wisconsin this week, which I had read is the "most polarized state in the country."  Turns out that's an accurate assessment. 

The desk clerks at my hotel outside Milwaukee nearly got into an argument with each other after I mentioned that I was in town to see Gov. Christie campaign for their governor, Scott Walker.

"They try to make him seem so bad," one said, referring to the collective bargaining fight last year that has led to Walker's recall election next month.

"That's because he was born bad," the other said.

The anger continued even after I left Wisconsin. The woman sitting next to me on the plane RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE (Delta WiFi in the sky...much thanks) was looking over my shoulder and saw what I was writing. She couldn't help but share her anger that Walker has cut benefits for the poor people she works with as a paralegal.

Her relatives disagree with her: "They just want cuts, cuts, cuts." But, she notes: "The problem gets bigger and bigger the more resources you take away."

It was into this civil war that Christie landed yesterday. Here's my story in today's paper about the two campaign events he went to: 

OAK CREEK, Wis. - Gov. Christie parachuted into the middle of the country Tuesday to lend some of his self-styled Jersey tough-guy firepower to a beleaguered and controversial Republican governor on the front lines of the war to roll back spending on public employees.

Carrying his union-battling reputation, his possible vice-presidential-candidate aura, and his perch as No. 2 at the Republican Governors Association, Christie rallied the faithful and helped fill the coffers of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election.

Almost immediately after entering office last year, Walker became a lightning rod around the nation for his push to end most collective bargaining rights for nearly all unionized public workers. Protesters slept in the halls of the state Capitol, and Democratic legislators fled the state for a while to delay a vote. More than 900,000 signatures were collected to recall Walker.

If the winner of a Democratic primary next week defeats Walker in the June 5 recall election, Walker will become only the third governor in American history to be recalled.

But while Christie said he spoke to Walker regularly during last year's controversy, the New Jersey governor mentioned the word union only once in two appearances with Walker on Tuesday.

Instead, Christie listed his own fiscal accomplishments in New Jersey, promised an income-tax cut in the state by July 1, and spoke broadly about "special interests that have owned these state capitals for too long."

Continue reading the story, here.

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