The remarkable thing about Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign is that Walker makes little effort to hide the fact that he is not running for governor in 2014. He is running for president in 2016.
Yes, of course, Walker must tap a base in Wisconsin on the way. But he promises Wisconsinites nothing more than an election night celebration if he wins; then it’s off to Iowa and New Hampshire.
Asked last month by the Green Bay Press Gazette if he would “tell people that if you’re elected in November that you promise to serve out the four years and skip the 2016 national elections,” Walker danced around the question with ill-defined talk of “the next four years.”
Pressed on whether that was “a promise to serve the full four years,” Walker replied: “I've never made a time commitment anywhere I've been in office.”
Take the governor at his word on that.
Few political figures in history have so clear a track record of running for one office, winning an election and then launching a new campaign for another office.
While serving in the Legislature in 2002, Walker devoted himself first to promoting the recall of Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament — whom Walker had previously supported — and then to running in a special election to replace Ament.
After being elected to a full term as county executive in 2004, Walker immediately began running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2006. Only after he was elbowed out of that race by national Republicans did he “choose” to finish the term to which he was elected.
After Walker was re-elected as county executive in 2008, he immediately began running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010.
What’s different this year is that Walker is already running for president, taking every step short of formally announcing. He has:
• Published a 2016 campaign book, "Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge," which Glenn Beck’s The Blaze refers to as “the prototypical book about someone running for president who doesn’t want to come out and actually say that he is running for president.”
• Campaigned with Republicans in the first caucus state of Iowa, campaigned with Republicans in the first primary state of New Hampshire, and campaigned with Republicans in the key Southern primary state of South Carolina.
• Regularly been featured (admittedly, toward the bottom) in presidential polls taken nationally and in New Hampshire and Iowa.
• Flown to Las Vegas to appear with potential 2016 Republican contenders at event organized by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
• Openly speculated about the conservative jurists he would like to appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court.
No one will ever go broke betting on Scott Walker’s ambition. His career in politics — which has included two dozen primary and general election runs since 1990 — has been defined by nothing so much as a determination to leap to the next highest office. If he wins Nov. 4, Walker will keep right on running down the 2016 presidential campaign trail.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. email@example.com and @NicholsUprising