Under persistent questioning on the Hill today, Governor Scott Walker finally admitted something he’s refused to acknowledge throughout the Wisconsin controversy: He never campaigned explicitly on any proposal to roll back the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

The debate over whether Walker campaigned on that plan has been central to the Wisconsin battle since it began, and it remains significant now that the drive to recall Wisconsin Repubicans is under way. Labor and Dems have argued that their reaction to Walker’s proposal — from the Dems’ fleeing of the state to the decision to initiate the recall drives — has been justified by the fact that Walker never leveled with voters about his truly radical intentions.

The claim that Walker campaigned on the proposal has also been central to Walker’s defense of himself throughout the whole fight, and has been widely repeated by many Republicans and conservatives defending the Governor.

But today, Dem Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia sharply questioned Walker on the matter, and finally got him to concede that he didn’t in fact campaign directly on the proposal:

Asked if he had really campaigned on a plan to roll back collective bargaining rights, Walker repeatedly danced around the question, insisting he had campaigned on a “range” of promises to impose fiscal discipline. But Connolly kept pressing the point, and finally asked him point blank: Did you “explicitly” campaign on this proposal?

“No,” Walker conceded. He then went on to repeat his claim that he campaigned on a range of issues, and insistted that Wisconsinites should not have been surprised by his plan because his views on collective bargaining had long been known.

This is at odds with what Walker has said in the past. Asked in February whether his move to limit union power was payback, Walker replied: “It’s not a tit for tat. The simple matter is I campaigned on this all throughout the election.”

Politifact debunked this claim some time ago. But this appears to be the first time Walker himself is conceding the point, though one imagines he doesn’t view it as a concession.

Expect Walker’s new admission to figure in the current drive to recall the Republican state senators who supported and enabled Walker’s big surprise.