TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who made his name by fighting his state’s public sector unions, basked in a warm ovation at the Republican convention on Tuesday, his first victory lap on the national stage since surviving a recall vote on June 5.
The 44-year-old has been a rising Republican star since taking office in January 2011 for his sledgehammer approach to cutting back union benefits. He is a favorite of the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement, one of the few to grab a speaking role at this week’s convention in Tampa, Florida.
In June, Walker became the only U.S. governor to survive a recall vote, raising almost $28 million in what became the most expensive election in Wisconsin history. His opponents also spent millions.
“On June 5th, voters in Wisconsin got to determine who was in charge - was it the big government special interests in Washington or the hard-working taxpayers of our state?” Walker said, to cheers.
“The good news is that - on June 5th - the hard-working taxpayers won.”
Wisconsin has become a focus of the run-up to the November 6 general election. Walker’s recall triumph was considered the first big electoral test for President Barack Obama’s Democrats before Election Day.
And U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, the running mate of Republic presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is from the state. Wisconsin has gone from being a state that was likely to vote for Obama in November to becoming a competitive one for the Republicans.
Walker used his short speech to praise Ryan.
“With the announcement of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Governor Romney not only showed that he has the experience and the skill needed to become president, he showed he has the courage and the passion to be an exceptional president,” Walker said.
The Wisconsin governor had already enjoyed a raucous standing ovation on Tuesday, when he spoke for the Wisconsin delegation during the afternoon roll call vote that formally made Romney the party’s presidential nominee.
Wisconsin has voted Democratic in presidential elections since 1984, but Obama has only about a 2-point lead over Romney there, according to polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.
Despite his popularity with national Republicans, Walker has some problems at home. Nearly a million Wisconsin residents signed petitions that triggered the recall effort against him.
And Democrats won enough seats in the recall election to take a one-seat majority in the Wisconsin state Senate, although one Democrat later became an independent. (Editing by Alistair Bell and Jim Loney)