JANESVILLE, Wisc. (Reuters) - Mitt Romney made a campaign stop with Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin on Monday and said Americans can “learn a lot” from the Republican who survived a Democratic recall effort two weeks ago.
Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, praised Walker’s leadership and said his approach to limiting government and slashing spending in his state was a stark contrast to President Barack Obama.
“At the national level we can learn a lot from this guy,” Romney said after Walker introduced him to an overflow crowd in the parking lot of a Janesville textile mill on the fourth day of Romney’s bus tour of battleground states.
“If you’re responsible, and you don’t spend more money than you take in, and you’re very careful in making sure that your budget is balanced, and you have a very pro-business attitude, encouraging businesses to come in and grow, then it’s good for jobs and the American people,” Romney said.
Romney’s embrace of Walker marks his campaign’s growing confidence that he may be able to win Wisconsin in the November 6 election, though the state has long been seen as likely to chose Obama.
Walker became a hero to conservatives in the last year for his sledgehammer approach to reining in public-sector unions and cutting spending. He survived a recall effort by state Democrats earlier this month.
“We were able to show here in Wisconsin that you can turn things around,” said Walker, who introduced Romney at the textile mill rally and declared he was “proud to still be your governor.”
Polls show Obama and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, in a tight race for the White House, with worries about the slow economic recovery hurting Obama’s approval ratings. Romney has focused on his past as head of a private equity firm to argue that he would provide better economic leadership. Like Walker, he often employs anti-union rhetoric.
Romney’s five-day bus tour has focused on a half-dozen swing states - New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan - that could be critical in the November election.
Wisconsin has backed Democrats at the presidential level since 1984, and Obama won comfortably here in 2008. But recent polls show a tight race in the state, and Walker’s recall victory has energized Wisconsin conservatives.
Romney said Obama was taking the state for granted and predicted a victory in the general election.
“You know, President Obama had just put this in his column, he assumed he was going to win Wisconsin,” Romney said. “We’re going to win Wisconsin.”
Romney also appeared in Janesville with U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman and author of a budget plan to drastically cut government spending and partially privatize the Medicare health plan for the elderly. Romney has endorsed the Ryan plan, which has become a benchmark for conservatives.
Romney did not mention the more controversial aspects of Ryan’s budget plan like the proposal to offer retirees money to shop for healthcare in the private market, rather than through Medicare. Seniors could elect to stay in the current system.
Ryan, who is from Janesville, said Romney would give Americans an alternative to Obama’s “government-centered” agenda of heavy spending and federal interference. He said Walker and the state’s Republican-led legislature, elected in 2010, had done what voters wanted and the failed recall effort against Walker was proof.
“In Wisconsin in 2010, we elected leaders to get our state back,” Ryan said. “And about two weeks ago we did the same thing.”
Romney said Obama was struggling to find a campaign message because he could not run on his economic record due to a struggling recovery and stubbornly slow job growth. After running in 2008 on “hope and change,” Romney said, Obama’s slogan now is “we hope to change the subject.”
Editing by Alistair Bell and Christopher Wilson