Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in his weeks-old standoff with unions over collective bargaining.

Both Romney and Pawlenty are widely seen as likely candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination and have been among many potential 2012 candidates keeping their names in the public discourse by commenting on a variety of political issues.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is pushing a plan in which public employees would pay more for health insurance and pension benefits and also cuts collective bargaining rights. Walker's plans sparked tens of thousands to protest and all 14 Democratic state senators fled the state so the chamber cannot act on the proposals.

White House officials have repeatedly said they understand the need for states to cut back, but that should not serve as an excuse for them to eliminate fundamental union rights."Governor Scott Walker is making tough choices needed to avoid financial ruin. The nation's governors don't need a lecture from a President who has never balanced a budget," said Pawlenty. "The gig is up for public employee groups who demand better benefits than the taxpayers who are paying the bill... Stand strong, Scott - average taxpayers everywhere are rooting for you."

Pawlenty's Political Action Committee, Freedom First, also released a video supporting Walker that appears similar to a campaign ad.

For his part, Romney did something he's been doing a lot of lately. He gave money. Through his PAC, Free and Strong America, Romney contributed $5,000 to the Republican party of Wisconsin.

"Liberal big government interests are fighting efforts to rein in out-of-control public employee pay and benefits in Wisconsin," said Romney. "It is critical that we stand with the Wisconsin GOP as it stands up for the rights of the taxpayer."