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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/24/2011

For Walker, cause and celebrity don't necessarily mean cause celebre

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, less than two months into his first term as the state's chief executive, may already be the most well-known governor in the country.

But even as the protests over the Republican's budget cuts rage and Democratic lawmakers continue to be AWOL to avoid voting on them, the GOP's rally effect has been somewhat ... well ... uninspiring.

The Republican Governors Association launched a website Wednesday at standwithscott.com that urges people to offer their e-mail address and support the cause on Facebook. Meanwhile, Republican campaign committees have sent a few releases hitting Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) for some off-color comments and asking whether Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) -- a Democrat in a conservative, right-to-work state -- supports the Madison protesters.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is going up with a video and a petition drive today at standingwithscott.com, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich published a message on Human Events urging people to help.

But much of the rest of the 2012 presidential field has been relatively quiet -- at least on Walker's effort to strip unions of collective bargaining rights. One potential contender, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, has taken a decidedly different tack, in fact. As his state faces the same problem -- Democrats fleeing a vote to strip unions of collective bargaining rights -- Daniels has said the right-to-work legislation is an untimely distraction. And now Indiana Republicans are tabling the bill. (Daniels, it should be noted, has also offered some comments supportive of Walker.)

Walker is now calling for other governors to join him in fighting the unions, but there aren't many takers so far. In addition to Daniels, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad have now become the latest governors to balk at going after the unions. They join Daniels, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett in shying from that battle.

While potential presidential contenders and fellow governors have been happy to join in Walker's call for spending cuts, going after the unions' collective bargaining rights brings the battle to a whole new level. And not everyone is willing to go there.

"The difficulty is in that next step, which is still important, of putting in limits on that negotiating power, so states aren't back in the same position two years from now," said GOP pollster Jon McHenry.

What's more, Republicans aren't sure this is a winning issue for them.

"It's too soon to tell if this is a winning issue," said another GOP pollster. "For Republicans to win, there has to be an understanding among voters that the pensions, health care, pay, and other benefits of government employees is too much and is bankrupting their state."

A Gallup poll this week showed that 61 percent of Americans opposed stripping unions of collective bargaining rights, while just 33 percent support it.

In addition, unions maintain significant power in many of these governor's states, and crossing the unions comes at a cost.

So even if Republicans think they can turn the issue into a winning one, it might just complicate their efforts to get spending cuts. And by taking that next step, they risk losing the messaging battle.

For Republican politicians in the midst of spending battles all over the country -- including in Washington -- that extra step could be a doozy.

Poll shows Hatch and Chaffetz tied: A new Utah Policy poll is the latest evidence that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has his work cut out for him in 2012.

The poll shows Hatch and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tied at 42 percent apiece in a head-to-head primary matchup.

Perhaps more sobering for Hatch, among all Utah voters, 54 percent say it's time for a new senator, while just 31 percent committed to reelecting the longtime senator.

The poll follows a Dan Jones and Associates poll for the Deseret News earlier this month that showed Hatch leading Chaffetz 44 percent to 34 percent.

That Hatch is under 50 percent is troubling for him, but Chaffetz may be looking for more of a sure thing, and challenging Hatch isn't a guaranteed victory -- particularly given the steps Hatch is taking to make inroads with the base.

Video of Huntsman at Chinese protest: U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman -- a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate -- tried to talk to some protesters at a rally in Beijing earlier this week, but he left quickly once members of the crowd identified him. Video of the incident has been posted online by an anti-American blogger.

A U.S. embassy spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that Huntsman was merely on a family outing and passed through the protest by coincidence. The spokesperson said the ambassador circled back later out of curiosity.

Huntsman will resign his post April 30 as he moves toward a presidential bid.

Huckabee says Romney should own up on health plan: On his just-launched book tour, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee gave some advice to potential rival Mitt Romney about his health care bill.

"I think it's not a killer for him. But he has to say either 'I love it,' 'I hate it,' or, 'Hey I tried it, it didn't work, and that's why I would say to you, let's not do it nationally,'" Huckabee said of the universal health care law Romney signed while governor of Massachusetts -- a bill that has drawn comparisons to President Obama's bill and may not sit well with the GOP base. "He's got to figure out how he wants to deal with it."

Politico reported recently that there are lingering tensions between Huckabee and Romney dating back to the 2008 campaign, and that Huckabee may be looking to thwart Romney's 2012 run -- an idea that Huckabee dismissed as "absurd" this week.

The Post's new congressional blog: A former member of the Fix team -- you know her as FixFelicia -- has a new blog on Congress launching today called 2chambers.

Be sure to check it out frequently for the latest and greatest news about the day-to-day battles on Capitol Hill. And look for continued collaboration between The Fix and Felicia's new venture.

Also be sure to follow her tweets at @2chambers.

We'll miss her at The Fix, but our loss is the gain of all you congressional politics junkies.

Fixbits:

Nebraska state Treasurer Don Stenberg (R) will enter the race against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) next month, according to Politico. Attorney General Jon Bruning is already in the race on the GOP side.

Huckabee says he has concerns about the endgame in Afghanistan.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was confronted this week about two reported affairs he's had. Gingrich said he believes in a God who forgives.

Must-reads:

"Obama's shift on gay marriage" -- Patrick O'Connor, Wall Street Journal

"White House won't defend Defense of Marriage Act" -- Jerry Markon and Sandhya Somashekhar

"Obama's Badger State blues" -- Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza  | February 24, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Sean Spicer chosen as RNC communications director

 
 
 
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