By BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Stands up to unions? Check. Not afraid to chop government budgets? You bet. Cut taxes? Done that.
With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a GOP hero after his recall election triumph — a mere mention of his name drew cheers Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Chicago — prominent Republicans seen as possible vice presidential picks took pains to remind conservatives they're working from a similar playbook.
New Jersey's Chris Christie, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Virginia's Bob McDonnell all paid visits to the conference in President Barack Obama's back yard, where they eagerly boasted of their own accomplishments.
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is expected to give those three and others a look before choosing his running mate this summer.
NEW JERSEY GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE
Before there was Walker, Christie was the right's darling. The famously in-your-face East Coast governor made clear he was a pioneer, particularly by taking on union pensions.
He heralded billions of dollars in future savings by making public workers shoulder more of their benefits and by curbing growth in retirement payouts.
Christie offered a portrait of a quintessential leader — someone willing to "bang enough heads together" and "cajole enough" — that showed him in the mirror.
"That's what we did in New Jersey and that's the model for America," Christie said.
LOUISIANA GOV. BOBBY JINDAL
More than the rest, Jindal worked to associate himself with Walker.
The Louisiana leader spent eight minutes recapping the Wisconsin recall fight, careful to note that he went there to stump for Walker before Tuesday's election.
Jindal said he's also showing off a stiff spine with public sector unions back home. He hit on education initiatives such as tying pay more closely to achievement and expanding school choice, efforts that have spawned a lawsuit from teachers unions.
"Just like in Wisconsin the unions aren't giving up," Jindal said before building to a crescendo. "I've got a message to those teacher unions: We're not giving up either."
VIRGINIA GOV. BOB MCDONNELL
Virginia's chief executive promoted his state's move from red budget ink to surplus and an unemployment rate that has fallen to its lowest level in three years.
McDonnell also touted his efforts to restrain spending and tamp down pension liability.
"Those fiscal conservative principles actually work," McDonnell said. "People are back to work and participating in the American dream in Virginia."
McDonnell, who strolled the stage rather than speak from a rostrum, also plugged a role in sparing Walker. He's the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which pumped $9.5 million into the recall fight.
"We wanted to make sure we had everything on the table for Scott to win," he said.
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM
The only non-governor of the bunch, Santorum basked in adoration from a conservative movement that pushed him deep in the GOP presidential primaries.
Santorum used CPAC to launch a new venture: a political outreach group he's calling Patriot Voices.
The former Pennsylvania senator said his goal was to recruit 1 million members and mobilize them on Election Day to support candidates committed to faith and family causes. He said he'll be personally campaigning for candidates, including Romney, in months to come.
Santorum told reporters he has yet to release convention delegates bound to him during the primaries.
"I want to make sure that the folks who represent the values that I did during this campaign are also able to come to that convention and have their voices heard," he said.
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