With the historic recall election only days away, both gubernatorial candidates called in big-name backers on Friday to help as they crisscrossed Wisconsin to rally support.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett are locked in a close race and both continued to campaign in the eastern part of the state as they seek to galvanize the faithful ahead of next Tuesday's vote.
In an appeal to Democratic voters, former President Bill Clinton spoke on Friday morning at a rally in Milwaukee on behalf of Barrett, who is the city's mayor.
Clinton told the crowd at a downtown riverfront park Friday that Tuesday's election is about much more than the state of Wisconsin and what's best for its residents. He said people nationwide are looking to Wisconsin as an American battleground.
"Ordinarily, I'm against recall elections. I went to try to fight one in California, but sometimes, it is the only way to avoid a disastrous course," Clinton said.
Clinton said states that are recovering economically have embraced "creative cooperation," not "constant conflict," a reference to Walker's move to eliminate collective bargaining for most public employees.
The former president said this historic recall election isn't just about the future of Wisconsin. He said it's about restoring the state to its former position of prosperity and pride among the rest of the country.
"If you want Wisconsin once again to be seen by all of America as a place of diversity, of difference of opinion, of vigorous debate, where in the end, people's objective is to come to an agreement that will take us all forward together, you have to show up and vote for Tom Barrett on Tuesday," he said.
Clinton talked extensively about how a "divide and conquer" approach was bad for the state and the country.
"If you don't show up to vote, they will say, 'See? We got 'em now. We finally going to break every union in America, break every government in America. We're going to stop worrying about the middle class. Don't give a rip whether poor people get to work their way into it, we got our way now. We got it all. Divide and conquer works,'" he said. "You tell 'em, 'No!' You tell 'em Wisconsin has never been about that, never will be about that by electing Tom Barrett governor."
Clinton pointed out Barrett's record on education and job creation, saying he has the best plan to move the state forward.
Walker, Haley rally supporters in Sussex
Just 30 minutes outside of Milwaukee, Walker called in his own high-profile support by campaign with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Walker and Haley visited the Quad Graphics printing plant in Sussex, where Haley, a Tea Party favorite, told several hundred workers that that all eyes were on Wisconsin.
She credited Walker for taking courageous stands during his first year in office.
"The reason this governor from South Carolina cares is because he had the courage to go through the burn, the courage to take it on even when it got ugly, and he never stopped," she said.
She said the race has national implications because it sends a message to other governors. She said that if Wisconsin voters have Walker's back, it would show governors like her that if they fight for voters, the voters will have their backs, too.
She said Americans like fighters who understand that even when the heat is on, they
need to keep fighting.
"The national implications are the fact that people no longer want to see deficits. They no longer want to see spending out of control," Haley said. "They want to see jobs come back (to) America and want to see elected officials do what they promised to do. That's the implications we'll see on Tuesday and we'll see him rewarded for it."
Haley has called herself a "union buster" and considers her state's low union membership rate an economic development tool.
The recall was spurred in part by Walker's proposal last year that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most state workers.
The candidates will remain on the road throughout the weekend. Barrett will spend Saturday campaigning in far northern Wisconsin, while Walker will be traveling statewide.