* Romney: Walker's recall victory will echo throughout U.S.
* White House plays down the significance of the vote
* Romney vows he would end U.S. involvement in autos
By Steve Holland
ST LOUIS, June 6 One candidate was in Texas, the
other in California, but it was the state of Wisconsin that
loomed large over U.S. presidential campaigning on Wednesday,
and, not surprisingly, Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama
sparred over its significance.
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker's victory in a
recall vote was a cause celebre for conservatives and Romney
attempted to turn it into support for his campaign to oust Obama
in the Nov. 6 election, even though he had largely steered clear
of the state in the midst of the struggle.
The outcome played into Romney's case that "union bosses"
have gotten too powerful and that they contribute so much money
to Obama's campaign that he is reluctant to take them on.
"It will echo throughout the country," Romney told his
supporters at a fund-raising lunch in San Antonio, Texas, that
raised close to $3.5 million and was part of a two-day tour that
netted $15 million. "Yesterday was won by the people of
Wisconsin doing the right thing and voting for conservative
Obama had for the most part avoided getting directly
involved in the effort by Wisconsin unions and Democrats to toss
Walker out of office in favor of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a
Democrat. The recall effort was launched after Walker last year
limited the powers of public sector unions. Unions typically
The White House attempted to play down the importance of the
"My observation is that what you had was an incumbent
governor in a repeat election that he had won once," White House
spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as it
carried Obama to California.
"The president supported and stood by Tom Barrett but I
certainly wouldn't read much into yesterday's result beyond its
effect on who's occupying the governor's seat today in
Wisconsin," Carney added.
Still, it was hard to see the Wisconsin outcome as anything
but bad news for Obama, particularly coming in a state that he
won in 2008 and should be expected to carry again in November.
Polls of Wisconsin voters indicated Obama would still defeat
Romney in Wisconsin but his lead was within single digits, and
this was good enough to give Romney a reason to crow. Wisconsin
would represent just the kind of takeaway that Romney will need
to defeat Obama.
Romney noted that Wisconsin tends to vote for Democrats in
presidential elections. "We (Republicans) don't win a lot in
Wisconsin. The last time we won Wisconsin was 1984. It's been
blue (Democratic) voting for president since then," Romney said,
the day before he heads to the battleground state of Missouri
for more campaigning.
Romney has criticized unions throughout his presidential
campaign in an effort to get reluctant conservatives to rally
The effort could hurt him in Michigan, the state where he
was born and where he would love to achieve an upset of Obama.
Hanging over him there is his opposition to auto bailouts that
Obama pursued aggressively and which helped avoid thousands of
layoffs during the worst of the economic crisis.
He told the Detroit News in an interview that he plans to
quickly dispose of the federal government's remaining stake in
General Motors, even at a loss, if he wins the November
election. "There is no reason for the government to continue to
hold" its stake in General Motors, Romney said.
The Washington Post estimated that the government would lose
at least $16 billion if Romney went ahead with this plan.
"I would get the company independent from government and run
for the interests of the consumer and the enterprise and its
workers - not for the political considerations of government
officials," Romney told the Detroit News.
The former Massachusetts governor, who frequently uses an
Apple iPad, suffered a technical setback when his email account
was hacked. ABC News said the Secret Service is investigating