ST. LOUIS (AP) - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he sees his fight to avoid becoming the third U.S. governor ever recalled from office as a referendum on so-called big government.
Walker was among many A-list Republicans who spoke Friday at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis. He received the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award, honoring him for signing concealed weapon and castle doctrine laws.
Walker, 44, is seen as a rising star in conservative politics, even as he faces a recall election on June 5. The recall effort was launched after Walker signed legislation to curb collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
He was clearly among friends at the NRA event, receiving long standing ovations before and after his speech during the NRA Leadership Forum that drew more than 1,000 people. Even with current or former Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum on hand, Walker was a favorite.
"We're with you Scott," a woman yelled from the crowd. "We're with you, too," he replied.
Walker acknowledged that he has become a polarizing figure, saying "thousands" of opponents have protested outside his home. But he said he hears from a lot more supporters than critics.
Walker said the fight over the size of government is being waged in statehouses across the country and in Washington, but nowhere more prominently than in Wisconsin, and that this is why he believes he has been targeted for recall.
"The advocates for big government view me as a threat," Walker said. "They want to take me out and they want to take me out before anybody else across America dares to take them on when it comes to big government."
Walker drew applause when he told the NRA gathering that he signed the castle doctrine law because "we want to make sure you can protect not only your home, but that you can protect your loved ones."
He also touted his administration's efforts to enhance rights for those who hunt, fish and trap, citing efforts to boost deer hunting and a law allowing wolves to be hunted in Wisconsin.