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Scott Walker's tea leaves: 8 indicators the Wisconsin governor is running for president in 2016


Christie kryptonite?


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been making the rounds lately in connection with the release of his new book "Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge." Blaze Books recently reviewed the book, finding it to be the archetype of a book for a future presidential candidate, though Governor Walker himself never comes out and actually declares he is running. Below are the salient points largely drawn from his own words that indicate the governor is gearing up for a 2016 GOP presidential run.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker greets supporters at an election-night rally June 5, 2012 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Walker handily won his recall election. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

1. He wrote a book that reads like one gigantic presidential trial balloon

As Blaze Books noted in our review of Scott Walker’s recently released “Unintimidated,” Walker didn’t write a political manifesto or a cliché biography, but the story of how a Midwestern Republican governor was able to pass conservative reforms including effectively abolishing collective bargaining for public sector unions in a blue state known as the birthplace of progressivism. In other words, Walker’s book is the prototypical book about someone running for president who doesn’t want to come out and actually say that he is running for president.

2. He lays out his entire presidential narrative on page 8 of said book

Every presidential candidate has their key set of talking points showing how their prior experience qualifies them to hold the highest office in the land. In Scott Walker's "Unintimidated," he describes the outline of what such a speech would look like pretty clearly:

“This book tells the story of how we won the battle for Wisconsin—the reforms we put in place, the mistakes we made, and the lessons we learned. In the pages that follow, I will discuss how we almost lost the “fairness” fight in Madison—and how we turned it around on the Democrats and their union allies [through Walker's abolishing of collective bargaining among public sector unions]. I will explain how we reached into President Obama’s base and won over the “Obama-Walker” voters in Wisconsin—and how conservatives can do it anywhere in the country. I will demonstrate how we balanced our budget while rejecting the dour politics of austerity—and found a way to make fiscal responsibility hopeful and optimistic. I will show why it is a myth that winning the center requires moving to the center—and why the path to a conservative comeback lies not in abandoning our principles, but in championing bold, conservative reforms…and having the courage to see them through.” ("Unintimidated," pg. 8)

3. He contrasts himself as a softer, kindler, gentler but battle-hardened and more conservative version of a certain Northeastern governor

While he never comes out and says it, Walker’s book reads like a direct shot across the bow of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Despite Walker's praise of Christie and other fellow Republican governors as reformers throughout the book, he lays out the case in substance and style as someone who successfully took on powerful unions, won elections by garnering the votes of so-called “Obama-Walker” voters in a blue state and reformed entitlements while pushing Wisconsin’s deeply red budget into the black, all with a plain-spoken Midwestern sensibility, that he should be the Republican presidential choice over Chris Christie. Look at Scott Walker's body of work and you see the makings of a narrative created to hold up to an onslaught from New Jersey's governor.

Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie make an appearance in front of around 200 supporters assembled inside the maintenance shop at KEI landscape company. May 1, 2012. (Image Source: Screenshot, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel video)

4. He portrays himself as a Reagan conservative ideologically, but the media will not be able to credibly cast him an "anarchist extremist”

As Walker states in his book:

“I believe that smaller government is better government. I am sometimes asked if I hate government. I don’t. I hate government that is too big and government that does not work. I believe that government at the federal, state, and local levels should be smaller. But in the areas where government has an appropriate role to play—be it local education or national defense—taxpayers not only deserve but should also expect and demand that government carry out its functions exceptionally well.” ("Unintimidated," pg. 23)

5. He has claimed the mantle of bipartisanship, a message which may play well and is likely directly targeted towards more moderate votersin a national election

According to Walker:

“From the outset, I was determined to keep the lines of communication open across the aisle. When I took office, I started a practice of meeting with the Democratic leaders once a week…In addition to that weekly leadership meeting, I also blocked off time on my schedule every Wednesday morning until noon for twenty-minute meetings with any legislator—Democrat or Republican—who wanted to see me. I still do. My door is open to individual members of either party." ("Unintimidated," pg. 56)

6. He is playing the executive over legislative meme, and playing it well

Historically, save for the case of the community organizer turned Senator turned Commander in Chief, executives have fared best in presidential elections. The portrayal as an “Outsider,” i.e. one who doesn’t work in the Beltway and play Beltway politics has been a successful political tactic as well. In that spirit, here’s what Walker had to say about governors versus Congress:

"So the question is: Why are so many Republican governors and state legislators winning elections at a time when national Republicans are faring so poorly? The answer, in part, is that while Washington remains locked in endless battles that most Americans don’t see as having much impact on their daily lives, Republican leaders at the state level are offering big, bold, positive reforms that are relevant to the lives of our citizens. In Washington, politicians fight over “fiscal cliffs,” “debt limits” and “sequesters.” In the states, we are focused on improving education, caring for the poor, reforming government, lowering taxes, fixing entitlements, reducing dependency, and creating jobs and opportunity for the unemployed." ("Unintimidated," pg. 3)

7. He makes a point to contrast his ideology and messaging with Mitt Romney’s

Clearly a large portion of Republicans are clamoring for a candidate in 2016 that can energize the base while also winning over Independents and a portion of those on the left. If Scott Walker is right, they also want someone who is effectively the anti-Romney. To this end, Walker says:

"To win in Wisconsin, and nationally for that matter, Romney needed to do more than criticize President Obama’s record; he needed to offer a hopeful and optimistic vision of his own for America. He needed to explain where he wanted to lead the country—and lay out a clear, bold plan to take on both the economic and fiscal crisis our nation faces. Not a fifty-nine-point plan, mind you. Three or four big ideas that people could understand and relate to—a plan that persuadable voters in battleground states could look at and say to themselves, 'If I elect Mitt Romney, here’s what he’s going to do to make my life better.' Unfortunately, Romney never did that." ("Unintimidated," pg. 200)

Listen to Walker on Romney’s comments on the poor:

"That was the wrong message for the 2.6 million Americans who had slipped beneath the poverty line in 2010-11, and the millions more who feared they were just a couple of paychecks away from falling under that line themselves. They were not looking for Mitt Romney to strengthen the safety net; they wanted to hear how he was going to help them escape the safety net. They were desperate to find good jobs, get off government assistance, and work their way out of poverty and up into the middle class. Romney never offered a hopeful and optimistic vision of how he would help them get there. Instead of consigning them to the permanent welfare state, he should have explained how he would help the poor not be poor anymore." ("Unintimidated," pg. 199)

8. He showcases his political jiu jitsu to illustrate strategy and tactics that would scale well beyond Wisconsin

Though again Governor Walker doesn’t come out and say it, it is unmistakable that he believes the way to win is to win on the Left’s own terms. Do you think that the below quotes reflect the words of someone who does not have ambitions of running for national office? Here’s Walker on unions:

"Rather than a right, collective bargaining has turned out to be an expensive entitlement. It allows union bosses to dictate spending decisions to state and local governments, and collect compulsory union dues to perpetuate their political power. But collective bargaining denies hardworking taxpayers their 'right' to the efficient delivery of public services. It denies children their 'right' to a decent education. And it denies citizens their 'right' to a government that lives within its means." ("Unintimidated," pg. 25)

A crowd in the Capitol rotunda in February 2011, during the labor demonstrations against Governor Walker in Madison, Wisconsin. (Credit: AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Craig Schreiner)

And here’s Walker on “fairness”:

"Fairness is one of the strongest arguments we have in politics. Never, ever, cede it to the other side. People won’t care about the effectiveness of your policies if they are not first convinced that your policies are also morally right. To win any public policy fight, you have to be able to first win the 'fairness' debate." (pg. 102) "Win the fairness fight – If we want to win the policy debates of the twenty-first century, we need to stop allowing our political opponents to claim the moral high ground that we should be occupying ourselves." ("Unintimidated," pg. 239)
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