- Scott Walker
Governor of Wisconsin
- Scott Kevin Walker is an American Republican legislator and politician who is the 45th Governor of Wisconsin. He was first elected Governor in 2010 and was sworn in on January 3, 2011. Walker was re-elected to a second term on November 4, 2014. Wikipedia
- Born: November 2, 1967 (age 47), Colorado Springs, CO
- Spouse: Tonette Walker (m. 1993)
- Office: Governor of Wisconsin since 2011
- Education: Marquette University (1986–1990), Delavan-Darien High School (1986)
- Children: Matt Walker, Alex Walker
- Parents: Patricia Ann Walker, Llewellyn Scott Walker
The emergency meeting that led Walker to quitThe governor left his closest supporters in the dark, even his biggest financial backers.
By SHANE GOLDMACHER and ALEX ISENSTADT
09/22/15, 01:13 AM EDT
But that’s what happened late last week when Scott Walker’s wife, Tonette, and his campaign chairman, Mike Grebe, reached out to a small number of longtime Walker aides and summoned them to the governor’s mansion on Monday morning.
The topic was obvious: the future of Walker’s struggling presidential campaign.
Walker had just limped out of a disappointing second presidential debate. The governor had spent weeks preparing for the showdown, knowing his political life depended on it. He’d practiced giving punchier answers and making sure to use up all his allotted time.
But the reviews had been brutal. Donors were grousing, and money was drying up. It was a painful turn for Walker, who had quickly vaulted to the top of the Iowa polls, powered by a fiery January speech in Des Moines, only to drop precipitously in the summer amid Donald Trump’s rise. He had gone from front-runner to also-ran in a matter of months.
So on Monday morning, the group of advisers — including veteran Walker hands John Hiller, Bill Eisner, Ed Goeas, and Jim Villa — huddled with Scott and Tonette Walker. The top of the agenda, according to campaign sources: polling and fundraising. And the numbers were bad.
Read: Scott Walker's presidential campaign announcement speech
Updated by Andrew Prokop on July 13, 2015, 6:52 p.m. ET @awprokop email@example.com
Here is Gov. Scott Walker's presidential campaign announcement speech, as prepared for delivery, courtesy of his campaign:
I love America.
As kids, my brother David and I enjoyed going over to the home of a neighbor by the name of Claire Congdon. In our small town, Mr. Congdon was something of a legend. He served our country in both World War I and World War II.
Then, like so many other veterans, he returned home and continued to serve his community. Mr. Congdon helped out with the concession stand at Legion baseball, he was active in our church and he was one of the leaders of my Boy Scout troop.
Each year before Memorial Day, he would organize all of us Scouts as we put flags on the graves of the fallen. He loved America. It was impossible to be around him and not share his love for God and Country.
Thirty years ago, Mr. Congdon's American Legion Post in our small town of Delavan, Wisconsin, helped me attend Badger Boys State. This is where I learned about state and local government. It was then my honor to be chosen to represent Wisconsin at a program called Boys Nation.
SINCE I'VE BEEN GOVERNOR, WE TOOK ON THE UNIONS AND WON
There I met a Vietnam veteran from Georgia by the name of Bob Turner. Bob and the other veterans who helped run the program did more than teach us about the federal government and national elections, they shared their love for our country, and instilled within me the importance of public service as we seek to protect our freedom.
These veterans remind me that America is a can-do kind of country. We just have a government in Washington that can't seem to get the job done. Washington, or as I call it, 68 square miles surrounded by reality.
The good news is that there is still time left to turn things around.
To do this, we need new, fresh leadership; leadership with big, bold ideas from outside of Washington; the kind of leadership that can actually get things done - like we have here in Wisconsin.
Since I've been Governor, we took on the unions and won.
We reduced taxes by $2 billion and lowered taxes on individuals, employers and property. In fact, property taxes are lower today than they were in 2010. How many Governors can say that?
LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I'M FOR: REFORM. GROWTH. SAFETY.
Since I've been Governor, we passed lawsuit reform and regulatory reform. We defunded Planned Parenthood and enacted pro-life legislation. We passed Castle Doctrine and concealed carry. And we now require a photo ID to vote in the State of Wisconsin.
If our reforms can work in a blue state like Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in America.
Traveling the country, I've heard people say that they are tired of politicians who only tell them what they're against and why they should vote against someone.
Americans want to vote FOR something and FOR someone.
So let me tell you what I'm for: I'm for Reform. Growth. Safety.
I'm for transferring power from Washington to the hard-working taxpayers in states all across the country. That's real reform.
I'm for building a better economy where everyone can live their piece of the American Dream. That's pro-growth.
I'm for protecting our children and grandchildren from radical Islamic terrorism and other threats in the world. That's true safety.
My record shows that I know how to fight and win. Now, more than ever, we need a President who will fight and win for America.
Real ReformFirst, we need to be for real reform in Washington.
Our big, bold reforms in Wisconsin took the power from the big government special interests and put it firmly into the hands of the hard-working taxpayers.
Today, people elected by local taxpayers actually get to run the schools. Our reforms ended seniority and tenure. Now we can hire and fire based on merit and pay based on performance. We can put the best and the brightest in the classroom.
Four years later: our graduation rates are up, third grade reading scores are higher and Wisconsin's ACT scores are now second best in the country.
Government that is closest to the people is usually the best. This is why we should move power and money out of Washington and send it back to our states and communities in key areas like Medicaid, transportation, workforce development and education.
Sadly though, Washington seems to measure success by how many people are dependent on the government. Instead, we should measure it by just the opposite: by how many people are no longer dependent on the government.
We understand that true freedom and prosperity don't come from the mighty hand of the government, they come from empowering people to live their own lives and control their own destinies through the dignity that comes from work.
You see, my first job was washing dishes at the Countryside Restaurant. Then, I moved up to the big times and started flipping hamburgers in high school at McDonald's to save up for college.
My dad was a small-town pastor and my mom worked as a part-time secretary and bookkeeper. My grandparents were farmers who didn't have indoor plumbing until my mom went off to junior high school. My dad's dad - my Grandpa Walker - was a machinist for 42 years at Barber-Coleman.
Looking back, I realize my brother David and I didn't inherit fame and fortune from our family. What we got was the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can do and be anything you want. That's the American Dream. And that is worth fighting for.
Helping adults who are able to work transition from government dependence to true independence will help more people live that dream.
In Wisconsin, we enacted a program that says that adults who are able to work must be enrolled in one of our job training programs before they can get a welfare check. Now, as of the budget I just signed, we are also making sure they can take a drug test.
When I proposed this, the status quo defenders cried that we were making it harder to get government assistance. My response? No, we're making it easier to get a job.
Strong families help too. We know that children who are raised in a household where both parents are involved are more likely to finish school, find a good job and live a life free of government dependence.
The federal government needs to support strong families by ending the marriage penalty and by reforming welfare programs that discourage fathers from being involved in the lives of their children.
I know how important both my parents were to my brother David and I when we were growing up.
That's why Tonette and I try to be good role models for Matt and Alex and we are proud of the leaders that each have become today.
We want to ensure that they - and every other son and daughter - have the opportunity to grow up in a more free and prosperous country.
Pro-GrowthTo ensure that prosperity, we need to be for a pro-growth economic plan that helps individuals and families earn, save and achieve their piece of the American Dream.
Instead of the top-down, government-knows-best approach we hear from politicians in Washington, we need to build the economy from the ground up in a way that is new and fresh, organic and dynamic.
As long as you don't violate the health and safety of your neighbors - go out and start your own career, build your own business, live your own life.
That's freedom - the freedom that serves as the cornerstone of the American Dream.
To help live that dream, we have a plan to help the people of this country create more jobs and higher wages.
First, we must repeal ObamaCare. That's right, repeal the so-called Affordable Care Act entirely and put patients and families back in charge of their health care decisions - not the federal government.
As Governor, I approved Wisconsin joining the lawsuit against ObamaCare on my first day in office. We need a President who - on the first day in office - will call on Congress to pass a full repeal of ObamaCare.
Next, we need to rein in the federal government's out-of-control regulations that are like a wet blanket on the economy. Yes, enforce common sense rules - but don't add more bureaucratic red tape.
In Wisconsin, I called for an overhaul of Wisconsin's regulatory process on my first day as Governor. We can do the same in Washington, then we can act to repeal Obama's bad regulations.
Then, put into place an "all-of-the-above" energy policy that uses the abundance of what God has given us here in America and on this continent. We are now an energy-rich country and we can literally fuel our economic recovery.
We need a President who will approve the Keystone pipeline on the very first day in office and then seek to level the playing field for all sources of energy.
Next, we need to help people get the education and the skills they need to succeed. This will help people find careers that pay far more than the minimum wage.
In Wisconsin, we reformed our public schools and gave families as many quality choices as possible because I trust parents to make the right decision for their children. I believe that every child deserves access to a great education - be it in a traditional public, charter, choice, private, virtual or home school environment.
We want high standards, but we want them set at the local level. No Common Core. No nation-wide school board.
I will push to take the power and money out of Washington and send it to our states and our schools, where it is more effective, more efficient and more accountable to the people of America. Think about it: where would you rather spend your dollar - in Washington or at your child's school?
And then, we need to lower the burden on hard-working taxpayers to improve take-home pay. And we need tax levels that are competitive for job creators to bring jobs back from overseas to put more of our fellow Americans back to work.
We can do it. We did it in Wisconsin and we can do it in Washington, too.
So, why do I focus so much attention on tax relief? Well, some of you know that Tonette and I like to shop at Kohl's. Over the years, I've learned that if I'm going to buy a new shirt, I go to the rack that says that the shirt was $29.99 but now is $19.99. Then, I take the coupon from the Sunday paper up to the cashier or I take out the flyer that we get in the mail that gives us 15 or 20% off - or even 30% if we are really lucky.
Then, Tonette reaches into her purse and pulls out some Kohl's cash. Next thing you know, they're paying us to buy that shirt.
Well, not really. So how does a company like Kohl's make money?
Volume. They make it off of volume.
You see, they could charge you $29.99 and a few of you could afford it or they can lower the price and broaden the base and make more money off of volume.
That's what I think about your money - the taxpayers' money. The government could charge the higher rates and a few of you could afford it. Or, we can lower the rates and broaden the base and increase the volume of people participating in our economy.
Years ago, we saw this kind of plan work well under President Ronald Reagan. Back then, it was called the Laffer Curve. Today, I call it the Kohl's Curve because I believe that you can spend your own money far better than the government - and that will help grow the economy.
True SafetyTo prosper, however, we need a safe and stable world. Let me tell you why I'm for true safety. To me, the commander in chief has a sacred duty to keep the people of America safe.
During my lifetime, the best president on national security and foreign policy was a Governor from California. Under his leadership, we rebuilt our military, stood up for our friends, stood up to our enemies and - without apology - stood for American values: this led to one of the most peaceful times in modern American history.
Today sadly, under the Obama/Clinton doctrine, America is leading from behind and we're headed toward a disaster.
We have a President who drew a line in the sand and allowed it to be crossed. A President who called ISIS the JV squad, Yemen a success story and Iran a place we can do business with. Iran...think about that.
My brother David and I used to tie ribbons around the tree in front of our house during the 444 days that Iran held 52 Americans hostage. One of them was Kevin Hermening who grew up down the road in Oak Creek. He was the youngest hostage - a Marine working at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Kevin Hermening is here today. He knows that Iran is not a place we should be doing business with. Iran hasn't changed much since he and the other hostages were released on President Reagan's first day in office.
Looking ahead, we need to terminate the bad deal with Iran on Day One, put in place crippling economic sanctions and convince our allies to do the same.
Earlier this year, the President proclaimed that climate change is the greatest threat to future generations. Well Mr. President, I respectfully disagree. The greatest threat to future generations is radical Islamic terrorism and we need to do something about it.
That means lifting the political restrictions on our military personnel in Iraq so they can help our Kurd and Sunni allies reclaim land taken by ISIS. On behalf of your children and mine, I'd rather take the fight to them than wait for them to bring the fight to us.
We need to acknowledge that Israel is our ally and start treating Israel like an ally. There should be absolutely no daylight between our two countries. That's why I went to Israel earlier this year and met with both the Prime Minister and the opposition leader to express my wholehearted support for the unshakeable bonds between our two countries.
We need to stop the aggression of Russia into sovereign nations. Putin bases his policies on Lenin's old principle: probe with bayonets, if you encounter mush, push; if you encounter steel, stop.
With Obama and Clinton, Putin has encountered years of mush. The United States needs a foreign policy that puts steel in front of our enemies.
We need to stop China's cyber attacks, stop their territorial expansion into international waters and speak out about their abysmal human rights record.
We need to have the capacity to protect our national security interests - here and abroad - and those of our allies. That begins with rebuilding the Defense budget at least to the levels recommended by Secretary Gates.
We need to honor our men and women in uniform by giving them the resources they need to keep us safe - and then give them the quality and timely healthcare they deserve when they return home.
But I believe that the best way we can honor them is by fighting to win. This is important because our goal is peace, but there will be times when America must fight.
And if we must, Americans fight to win.
The world needs to know that there is no better friend and no worse enemy than the United States of America.
America is a great country. We just need to lead again.
It's not too late. We can do it because we've done it before.
Veterans like Claire Congdon and Bob Turner remind me that what makes America great, what makes us exceptional, what makes us the greatest country in the world, is that all throughout our history during times of crisis - be it economic or fiscal, spiritual or military - what makes America amazing, is that there have been men and women of courage who thought more about future generations than they did about their own political futures.
This is one of those times in American history.
After a great deal of thought and a whole lot of prayer, we are proud to announce that I am officially running to serve as your President of the United States of America.
Tonette and I want our sons Matt and Alex - and all of the other sons and daughters like them - to grow up in a country that is at least as great as the one we inherited.
Americans deserve a President who will fight and win for them.
Someone who will stand up for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Someone who will stand up for our religious rights and all of our other Constitutional rights. Someone who will stand up for America.
You see, It doesn't matter if you're from a big city, a suburb or a small town, I will fight and win for you.
Healthy or sick, born or unborn, I will fight and win for you.
Young or old - or somewhere in between - I will fight and win for you.
Over the years, I've met some amazing people who came here from other places around the world. The people I've met tell me that they didn't come here to become dependent on the government.
No, the reason they came was because America is one of the few places left in the world where it doesn't matter what class you were born into or what your parents did for a living. In America, you can do and be anything you want.
Here, the opportunity is equal for all, but the outcome is up to each and every one of us.
You see, there is a reason we just took a day off to celebrate the 4th of July and not April 15th. Because in America, we celebrate our independence from the government and not our dependence on it.
That's why I love America. That's why we love America. That's why - working together - we can fight and win for America.
God bless you. God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.
Jeb Bush, Scott Walker emerging as front-runners for GOP nod — and rivals
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talks at his table before President Obama arrives to speak to members of the National Governors Association at the White House last month. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
By Ed O'Keefe and Robert Costa March 10
It started with a subtle poke at Jeb Bush almost two months ago, when Scott Walker suggested that Republicans need “a new, fresh approach.” Since then, Walker has continued jabbing, casting himself as the “son of a preacher” — instead of, say, a president — and warning Republicans against “looking to the past.”
With each provocation amid Walker’s fast rise, the Bush camp has grown increasingly agitated — not just by the attacks but also by what they see as a lack of scrutiny of the Wisconsin governor’s record.
Bush supporters fired back on Tuesday, starting when Al Cardenas, a Miami-based lawyer and longtime Bush supporter, took to Twitter to attack Walker’s shifting positions: “Did u know S Walker was for path to citizenship. Now not? Did u know he was against ethanol subsidy, now he is for? Do u really know him?”
In an e-mail to The Washington Post, Bush ally Ana Navarro repeated the theme, suggesting Walker was starting to sound a bit like that most renowned of Republican flip-floppers, Mitt Romney.
“Running for president requires having the mettle to keep your boots on, not change into flip-flops when it starts getting hot,” Navarro said in an e-mail. “I think the flip-flop label hasn’t yet stuck to Walker because unlike Romney, until now he’s had a low profile nationally.”
Jeb Bush and Scott Walker pose for a photo with the Sterling & Brass band in 2010 at a Walker fundraiser in Milwaukee (Courtesy of Jack Schulze//Sterling & Brass band)
The back-and-forth between the Republican camps is evidence of how the growing Bush-Walker rivalry has come to define the early stage of the 2016 GOP primary race, as well as how each presumptive candidate is planning to position himself against the other.
Walker wants to be the upstart outsider in the field, hoping to win over the grass roots as a fresh-faced conservative who stands apart from the old Washington ways. No one in the Republican field represents those ways more than Bush.
The former Florida governor, meanwhile, has fully embraced the establishment wing of his party and is raking in tens of millions of dollars from big-money donors. His emerging charge against Walker — voiced by aides and surrogates — is that the Wisconsin governor is not quite as conservative or consistent as he might seem.
Their upcoming travel schedules reflect the differences. When Bush shows up in New Hampshire on Friday, he will meet with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and attend a house party in Dover. He will also headline closed-door fundraisers for two GOP lawmakers on Friday and Saturday and meet privately with potential supporters.
Walker flies to New Hampshire for the first time as a potential candidate on Saturday and will appear at a state party training session for grass-roots Republican activists at a high school in Concord that is expected to draw more than 300 people, according to organizers. He will also meet privately with some supporters Saturday morning.
Jim Luther, a Walker backer and former New Hampshire state senator, said he and other Republicans have been grumbling about Bush’s plan to attend a fundraiser for Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) in which donors are being asked to pay $5,000 for access to what Luther called “the elite circle.”
“That’s Washington, D.C., prices, and it really shows that this is the way Bush is carrying himself,” Luther said. “He has huge price tags. He’s not connecting. He’s a vacuum cleaner for dollar bills. But if you look at his policy points, he’s got a lot of work to do.”
Scott Walker: 'I didn’t inherit fame or fortune from my family'(0:47)
American Bridge 21st Century released this video of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) speaking at an event in Nashville on Feb. 23. (American Bridge 21st Century via YouTube)
“I wish he’d listen to his mommy, who said we’ve had enough Bushes in the White House,” Luther added.
Bush and Walker’s political relationship began warmly five years ago this month when Bush gave Walker a crucial boost. He endorsed Walker, who was then the Milwaukee County executive, months ahead of the state GOP’s gubernatorial primary and headlined a $250-a-person fundraising event at the Pfister hotel in Milwaukee. A local brass band played at the cocktail reception, and Bush and Walker posed for a picture with the quintet.
In June 2012, shortly after Walker won a recall election, Bush told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Walker was “the real deal.” Days later, however, the first sign of tensions between the men appeared.
At a Bloomberg View gathering, Bush expressed that he had growing concerns about the modern GOP and its “orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement.” Appearing soon after at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Walker told reporters he disagreed with the assessment by Bush, whom he called a friend who e-mails him “quite a bit on things out there.”
Since then, the two have been more cordial than chummy.
Last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Walker touted his blue-collar roots, calling himself the “son of a small-town preacher” who did not have a chance to visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia until he was an adult. That was a double-knock on Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, who once chaired the National Constitution Center — down the street from Independence Hall.
Walker is also building a persona as a blue-collar newcomer online. In the lead video on the Web site for Our American Revival, Walker’s organizing group, the hush-voiced narrator warns Republicans to stop “looking to the past” over photos of working-class people with their heads in their hands.
The Bush camp is trying to stick the dreaded flip-flopper label on Walker over two issues: immigration and ethanol subsidies, the latter a closely watched issue in Iowa, where the nomination battle kicks off.
Walker once backed comprehensive immigration reform efforts but recently told Fox News: “My view has changed. I’m flat-out saying it.” And this past weekend at an agriculture conference in Iowa, Walker announced his full support for ethanol subsidies — a shift from his previous position, according to conservative news outlets.
In an e-mail, Cardenas said that his tweet was not sent on Bush’s behalf. But it nevertheless channeled the private frustrations of Bush aides who have bristled in recent days over their belief that Walker’s shifting positions have not been highlighted.
Cardenas is the co-chairman of a bipartisan task force on immigration reform that includes former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell (D).
“Walker was an ally when we started this journey,” Cardenas said. “I intend to call out anyone, not just him, who have changed their stripes on this issue to suit a presidential campaign run.”
Navarro added: “I’m a political junkie, and until very recently, I’ve been unfamiliar with his positions and record. I didn’t know he’d dramatically changed his rhetoric on issues like immigration and ethanol subsidies until I read about it. I think most Republicans are in the same boat as me.”
Bush is an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and wrote a 304-page book on the subject. He also signaled tepid support for ethanol subsidies last weekend at the agriculture conference.
Bush has avoided directly criticizing his potential rivals. “I’m not going to tear down my fellow Republicans — that doesn’t help,” he said in Iowa this past weekend, echoing something he first told supporters at CPAC. “In order to get 50 [percent], you’ve got to be uniting the party rather than dividing the party.”
Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post.
Poll: Scott Walker Expands Lead in lowa
May. 30, 2015 9:04pm
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has upped his advantage in Iowa, leading second-place Republicans with their eyes on the White House by seven points, Bloomberg Politics reported Saturday.
Walker weighed in at 17 percent in the new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, two points higher than his top finish in a similar January poll, Bloomberg Politics added.
“Scott Walker’s momentum puts him solidly in first place,” J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll, told Bloomberg Politics. “For the time being, he’s doing the right things to make the right first impression.”
Tied for the second spot? Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ben Carson at 10 percent; knotted at third with 9 percent — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Another telling tally: More than a third of likely Republican caucus participants indicated they’d never vote for Bush; 43 percent view him favorably while 45 percent view him unfavorably.
Next in the GOP field was Rick Santorum and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, both at 6 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was at 5 percent, followed by Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both at 4 percent; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was at 3 percent, and it was 2 percent for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were at 1 percent.
You can read more about the poll results here.
Scott Walker: Trump 'Needs to Apologize'
By Greg Richter | Sunday, 19 Jul 2015 07:49 PM
Donald Trump should apologize for his comments on Saturday disparaging Arizona Sen. John McCain as "not a war hero," says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of Trump's rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.
"At a minimum he needs to apologize," Walker told "NBC Nightly News" on Sunday, reiterating an assertion he made on the campaign trail in Iowa a day earlier. He told NBC that Trump's supporters should push the real estate tycoon to say sorry.
Story continues below video.
Whatever Trump does next, Walker said, "that's up to the voters. But clearly he needs to apologize and refrain from comments like that."
Trump has said he won't back down from his controversial statement made Saturday at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit, though most of his presidential rivals have condemned his words.
"I think that more people need to push him," Walker said. "And not just candidates or elected officials, but I think more people from across America, including some of those that maybe up until now have been supporters of his."On a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday, Walker said McCain is "undoubtedly an American hero," adding that Trump "needs to apologize to Senator McCain and all the other men and women who have worn the uniform,."
Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com
Walker in South Carolina -- Prayerful But Political
By Caitlin Huey-Burns - March 20, 2015
GREENVILLE, S.C.—Wisconsinite Scott Walker might be more inclined to brats and beer, but here in the Palmetto State–site of the South’s first 2016 presidential primary–the likely presidential candidate was eager to dive into some Carolina barbeque.
“I love barbeque,” the two-term governor said Thursday afternoon in Columbia, referring to the dinner he would attend upstate later that evening. Walker told the group that he met his wife at a barbeque joint. “That’s a good omen,” he noted.
Nearly 900 miles from home, the Midwesterner worked to woo southerners this week in his first visit to the state as a potential contender for the GOP nomination.
Walker’s home state is central to his presidential pitch—a blue state governor elected three times in four years, much of that time dogged by pro-union protesters—and he barely utters a few lines without mentioning Wisconsin. But here in conservative South Carolina, Walker also came across as the prayerful son of a preacher who can raise money like hell.
At the dinner in Greenville and a lunch in Columbia, Walker boasted of grassroots support from 300,000 donors around the country, a tally second only to the party’s last nominee, Mitt Romney, he said. The mention was a not-so-subtle attempt to compete with his current chief rival, Jeb Bush, who is amassing large sums of money from wealthy donors ahead of his own presidential bid.
But most profound, he likes to say, are the people who prayed for him.
“The thing we felt most, was when people prayed for us,” Walker said. “When people tell me they prayed for me, I literally reach out and touch them.”
When friend and fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan was preparing for the 2012 vice presidential campaign, Walker said he advised him to appreciate the prayers of supporters. “When someone reaches out and says they’re praying for you, literally reach out and touch them and you will feel the power of prayer,” he recalled telling Ryan. “Don’t underestimate the value of prayer.”
The pious Walker also took opportunities to throw some political punches. He often refers to his humble beginnings, how his mother grew up without indoor plumbing, as a way to contrast himself with Bush, the son and brother of presidents. “I didn’t inherit wealth or fame or fortune,” he said in what has become a mainstay of his stump speech.
He also took jabs at Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. “People, like the president and Hillary Clinton and others out there, believe you grow the economy in Washington,” he said. “I think Hillary Clinton and others like her embody Washington.”
The governor frequently mentioned the support he’s gotten in his state for defunding Planned Parenthood, backing voter ID laws, loosening gun restrictions, and signing a right-to-work law.
But Walker’s speeches here were also heavy on national security issues (which he preferred to call matters of safety—“this isn’t about national security—it’s about safety”), a nod to the state’s military bases and interests and another way to attack Clinton, former secretary of state under Obama.
“We’ve got a president who draws a line in the sand and allows people to cross it," he said. Obama “calls ISIS the JV squad and Yemen a success story,” Walker continued, also criticizing the president for negotiating with Iran. “Clinton gave a reset button to Russia! Think about that—a reset button,” he said, referring to the Obama administration’s efforts to improve relations with that nation in 2009.
While lack of foreign policy experience is considered Walker’s weakness—he recently cited his handling of 100,000 protesters in his state as his credential for combating ISIS—his lines about taking on “Islamic terrorists” and respecting Israel drew standing ovations from the two crowds.
Walker’s sudden and fast rise in the teeming presidential primary field has raised questions about whether he is prepared for the rigors of a long national race. In addition to his earlier comments about ISIS and the Wisconsin protesters, Walker has altered his positions on immigration reform and ethanol subsidies. This week, he came under fire from a host of conservative Republicans for firing respected digital strategist Liz Mair, who criticized Iowans in a couple of tweets earlier this year. Critics saw Walker’s handling of the situation as pandering by a candidate who often talks about being bold.
In Greenville, the governor addressed the controversy publicly for the first time. “If you’re going to be on our team, whether as paid staff or a volunteer, I say you need to respect the voters—even those that don’t agree with you,” Walker said. “Even if you don’t agree with the voter all the time, even if you don’t understand all the voters, you need to respect them.”
Almost a year before the South Carolina primary, many of the residents who came to see Walker didn’t seem concerned about his vulnerabilities.
“Sometimes it takes a little while to warm up to a Midwesterner,” said Zee Homoki, an Aiken resident who attended the Columbia luncheon with her husband, Steve, an Aiken city councilman. But Homoki liked Walker’s references to his upbringing, his focus on national security issues and his “deep love of country.”
“He can appeal to a larger section of the Republican Party,” she said. Her husband agreed. “He might be the guy to actually combine the Tea Party types and establishment types,” he said. “We need somebody from outside the Washington establishment, someone with new ideas and the perspective of Middle America.”
Some saw a natural connection between Walker and the South. “Midwesterners are known for being plain spoken and cutting to the chase … down-to-earth type folks, and trustworthy,” said Deirdre Dixon Amstutz, an attorney from Greenville who came to hear Walker. “He’s the only person I’ve seen that’s got a backbone. He’s not afraid,” she said, adding she first took notice of Walker during his recall election. Amstutz praised Walker’s handling of the union protesters: “If it had been somebody like [House Speaker John] Boehner, he would have just tucked his tail in and walked away.”
Janice Allen, a Brevard resident who drove an hour and a half to see Walker, said, “We don’t see him as part of the elite group or Washington Beltway crowd. I could just see him debating Hillary Clinton … when people see the contrast—him against her—she is really going to look like the scold,” she said.
Becky and John McNamara, who moved to Greenville three years ago from New Jersey, said they are still making up their minds about the Republican candidates, but said Walker has substance. “He’s not very slick, which is good—he’s more folksy,” said John McNamara. “And he has a good, proven track record.” Added his wife: “Obama didn’t have that.”
Walker came to South Carolina the day after Bush left. Neither has officially announced his candidacy, but they have been on each other’s heels recently in Iowa, New Hampshire and now the Palmetto State. Both met local lawmakers, activists, and Gov. Nikki Haley, who figures to be a coveted endorsement here. Bush held several open press events, including one with the governor, and took rounds of audience questions.
Walker met with the governor privately at the state Capitol and referenced their visit and their shared interest in right-to-work laws in his speeches here, but he stayed away from the press, leaving public events through a side door. A motorcyclist, Walker also made sure to mention his stop at a Harley-Davidson store en route to the Greenville barbeque dinner.
Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov. Walker signs bill making Wisconsin right-to-work state
Published March 09, 2015
BROWN DEER, Wis. – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a right-to-work bill into law Monday, striking another blow against organized labor four years after the state effectively ended collective bargaining for public-sector workers.
Walker, a likely presidential candidate fresh on a weekend visit to Iowa, signed the bill affecting private-sector employees at an invitation-only ceremony at Badger Meter north of Milwaukee. The company's president was one of the few business owners who publicly supported the measure, which rocketed through the Legislature in less than two weeks.
His sleeves rolled up and his suit jacket off, the Republican governor sat at a table with a banner that said "Freedom to Work" as he signed the bill that makes it a misdemeanor to require workers to pay unions dues.
Just before the signing, Walker said the new law "sends a powerful message across the country and around the world."
Supporters have argued the law will help keep and attract new businesses to the state who were wary to spend in Wisconsin before. But opponents say it will drive down wages and make the workplace less safe.
"By signing Right to Work into law, Gov. Walker continues his crusade on the hard-working, middle-class families of Wisconsin," said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO in a prepared statement.
A coalition of more than 400 businesses formed to oppose the bill and upward of 3,000 union members and others gathered at the Capitol in a failed attempt to block its passage.
Walker was surrounded Monday by Republican lawmakers who shepherded the bill through the process, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Representatives from the state chamber of commerce, along with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, were also on hand.
"This is one more big tool to help places like Badger Meter, when they can put jobs anywhere around the world, they can put them in Wisconsin," Walker said.
Badger Meter's chief executive and chairman Rich Meeusen said because of the law the company will place a $2.5 million piece of new water control equipment at the Brown Deer facility and that will lead to 30 to 50 new manufacturing jobs in the state.
Walker left without taking questions.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, makes Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state and the first to do it since Michigan and Indiana in 2012. Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, said the action now puts pressure on other Midwest states to follow suit.
"Every worker deserves freedom of choice when it comes to union membership and dues payment, and if states like Michigan and Wisconsin can pass Right to Work then Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio can too," Mix said in a statement.
Walker signed the bill after spending the weekend in Iowa with other Republican presidential prospects at an agriculture summit. Walker heads to New Hampshire this on Saturday where he'll give the keynote speech at a state Republican Party event.