In the clearest terms yet, Gov. Scott Walker and his key advisers have begun detailing his plans to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
On Thursday, Politico reported that Walker is “taking active steps toward a presidential campaign that would launch next summer” and would “contrast his record of conservative achievements in a swing state with paralysis in Washington.”
“I think there’s going to be a hunger for a leader who can actually get things done,” Walker said.
He also told U.S. News & World Report in an interview Thursday that his wife and two sons, Matt and Alex, are supportive of a White House bid in 2016.
“There are certainly enough clues that he’s thinking about running,” said Joe Heim, a UW-La Crosse political science professor. “To me, it’s clear that he is making initial moves toward that.”
Walker’s comments Thursday are the latest and most definitive he has made to national media about his presidential considerations since being re-elected two weeks ago by a nearly 6-point margin.
During the campaign, Walker told Wisconsin voters he planned to serve out a second four-year term, which begins in January.
Walker has been in Florida this week for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, where he has had a prominent role in discussing immigration, government spending and the future of the GOP.
He has said governors make better presidents, though he has essentially said he would not run if fellow Republican Paul Ryan of Janesville, the 2012 vice presidential nominee and recently elected chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, got in the race.
The Politico report, based on interviews with Walker and his “top political advisers,” said Walker’s 2015-17 budget and legislative agenda — which includes drug-testing welfare recipients, expanding school vouchers, replacing the Common Core education standards with state standards and lowering property taxes — “would bolster his standing with Republican primary voters.”
The online news site also said Walker would announce whether he’s running after the budget is put to rest.
He is expected to introduce the budget in January and has told his Cabinet he would push for quick passage and an “aggressive” agenda.
The budget would take effect July 1.
“Any (presidential decision) that would come officially would have to come after that,” Walker told the website. “That could be midsummer. I want to fulfill those obviously important responsibilities.”
A presidential campaign would be headquartered near Madison, and some senior campaign aides — including Keith Gilkes, Stephan Thompson and R.J. Johnson — have been asked to stick around for a potential 2016 bid, Politico reported.
Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, who was Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor before becoming U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under then-President George W. Bush, said Thursday in an interview with the State Journal that he has encouraged Walker to run for president and thinks he could win.
Thompson, who launched an unsuccessful bid to become the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said he talked to Walker before the Nov. 4 election about running for
You have free articles remaining.
“I told him that I should have run for the presidency when I was finishing my second term,” Thompson said. “I think he’s in a much stronger position to run now than wait like I did.”
Thompson added that Walker and Ryan would both make strong presidential candidates.
Walker told Politico he hasn’t firmly decided to run.
“The closer I’ve gotten to this position, the more I’ve realized that anyone who really wants to be president has to be a little crazy. ... The only way you should run is if you feel called to,” Walker said.
During his re-election campaign, Walker distanced himself from speculation about a possible 2016 presidential bid, saying he planned to serve a full four-year term if re-elected.
During his election night victory speech, Walker repeatedly drew sharp distinctions between Wisconsin and Washington.
“You see, the folks in Washington like this top-down approach that’s old and artificial and outdated that says government knows best,” Walker told the crowd of supporters in West Allis.
“We believe that you should build the economy from the ground up. That’s new, and fresh, and organic, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, said there’s been an “evolution” in Walker’s comments about a possible presidential bid, with notable shifts on the campaign trail, in his victory speech, and then in interviews since he won.
Franklin added that anyone seriously considering a presidential run would need to be not only assembling a campaign team; he or she would also need to start organizing in states with early primaries or caucuses, such as Iowa.
That would include reaching out to county chairmen and local organizers and activists, Franklin said.
Politico reported that in addition to Gilkes, Thompson and Johnson, Walker is expected to continue working with Mike Grebe, his campaign chairman who runs the conservative Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, spokesman Tom Evenson, digital director Matt Oczkowski, and finance director Colleen Coyle.
Wisconsin Democrats said Walker’s “rigid ideology” would stand out among other GOP presidential hopefuls, even in “this crowded field of right-wing extremists.”
“His second term hasn’t even started yet and Scott Walker is already talking about leaving behind the mess he’s made in Wisconsin to run for president,” said Melissa Baldauff, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
“But ultimately all that Walker brings to the table is a record of fiscal mismanagement, an inability to address or even understand economic inequality, and a history of sowing division.”