COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley is joining forces with a fellow union basher, a polarizing governor in a fight for his political life.
Haley will travel to Wisconsin next week to campaign with Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who is facing a June 5 recall election tied to his support of an anti-union bill.
The trip was made public Wednesday, the same day Haley’s campaign sought to raise money by highlighting a new video showing an S.C. union leader smacking a piñata with Haley’s face on it.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Walker asked Haley to campaign with him.
Godfrey said Walker’s campaign will pay for the cost of the June 1 trip to Milwaukee, and Haley will not fly on the state plane.
“Scott Walker’s fight is about more than Wisconsin,” Godfrey said in statement. “It’s about a courageous governor who goes into office and carries out his promises to his state regardless of the pushback. Gov. Haley admires his strength and will go to Wisconsin and remind them of why we need more of it in our country.”
The recall push was spurred by Walker’s backing of a measure that cut the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions.
Haley likewise has made Palmetto State unions one of her favorite political punching bags, despite the state having the second-lowest percentage of its workforce — 3.4 percent — in a union.
The feeling among S.C. unions is mutual.
A video shot over the weekend of S.C. AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt taking a baseball bat to a piñata featuring the first-term governor’s face made waves online Tuesday.
Haley’s office and national Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, condemned the spectacle.
Palin called the clip “disgusting” and a “perfect example of union boss thuggery” on her Facebook page.
Haley’s re-election campaign linked to the video in a Wednesday fundraising email.
“Will you stand with me by making a contribution of $250, $100, or even $50 now to show Big Labor that we will not stand for their bullying?” the email pitch asked.
Political analysts said Haley’s trip to Wisconsin shows that the governor is embracing the “good soldier” role for the national Republican Party and attempting to raise her profile.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, noted that Haley is the latest in a line of GOP governors to join Walker on the campaign trail.
He said Walker has become a GOP cause célèbre.
“It actually helps a Republican officeholder to aid Walker,” Sabato said. “Virtually every conservative interest group is behind him and spending money in some fashion to win the recall vote. If you are in the GOP and have ambitions, here’s a contest where you want to get your ticket punched. Haley is doing just that.”
University of South Carolina political scientist Todd Shaw said that while the trip may not have any impact on the governor’s image at home, it shows she is a good team player.
If Haley doesn’t take an unscheduled trip out of South Carolina before June 1, the Wisconsin trip will be her eighth out-of-state journey this year, according to her official schedule.
Those trips have included campaign stops for Mitt Romney, Republican Governors Association events and a week-long trip to New York and Washington, D.C., to promote her new book.
S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said Haley is out of state so much, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell of Charleston should consider asserting himself as acting governor.
“Rather than campaigning with Walker or Romney, she ought to sit in a classroom in an under-performing school,” Harpootlian said.
Godfrey called the criticism silly but predictable.
“When the governor travels, it’s usually on days the Legislature is out of session, and it’s always an opportunity to sell our state — the results speak for themselves: unemployment has fallen for nine straight months to a four-year low.”
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172.
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