Walker Launches 2016 Run as "Fighter Who Wins"
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker officially launched his presidential run Monday at the Waukesha County Expo Center, the same venue where he cemented his status as a national star in the Republican Party in 2012.
The center hosted Walker’s victory party when he won a recall election brought on by his pro-labor nemeses. That race, which drew national attention to Walker and his record as governor, has now become central to his narrative as a contender for the presidency.
In a Republican field that numbers in the double digits, Walker's reputation as a union buster in Wisconsin also sets him apart and has enabled him in the lead-up to his candidacy to emerge as a top-tier candidate.
Before Walker took the stage, an action-movie-style video recapping the recall election played, and the story featured prominently in his remarks.
“My record shows that I know how to fight and win," Walker said. "Now, more than ever, we need a president who will fight and win for America."
The speech touched on themes that will be at the focus of Walker's campaign -- the economy, smaller government and national security -- and sought to present Walker as a candidate with the seriousness to step into the presidency.
Early on, party organizers also landed a crowd-pleasing pie-in-the-face to Democrats when Rachel Campos-Duffy, wife of Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, introduced Walker by noting that he has been married to his wife, Tonette, for 24 years.
"Twenty-four is Bill Clinton's favorite age," she said.
Walker begins his campaign as a relative unknown to many Republican voters, but his team hopes to use that new-car smell to Walker's political advantage. Already he has established a strong base of support by taking an approach similar to that of another first-time presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio: presenting himself as a fresh face relative to Jeb Bush, the Republican money leader and the race’s frontrunner, if there is one.
"I don't think a name from the past beats a name from the past,” Walker told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday. “I think you need a name from the future.”
Walker is not a frontrunner in the mold of Bush, who recently confirmed a commanding money advantage over other Republican candidates with a $114 million haul between his campaign and affiliated super PAC. Walker’s intake has been more modest in advance of his candidacy, with his super PAC bringing in roughly $20 million so far.
Instead, Walker is among a number of Republicans actively vying to become the strongest alternative to Bush — as a newer face, more conservative, or both.
Rubio has emerged as another early favorite to take up the Bush-alternative mantle within the GOP. But Rubio has in recent weeks taken a subtle turn away from social conservative positions, instead taking positions that might endear him to more moderate Republicans.
Unlike Rubio, Walker is running in the Republican primary not as an establishment alternative, but as a more conservative one, having recently affirmed his support for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks; pushed for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman; and signed a so-called “right to work” law in Wisconsin, which has been hotly opposed by labor unions
Walker hopes also to differentiate himself from the crowded Republican field by stressing, as he has over the past few months on the campaign trail, that he has not only taken on big political fights, but he has also come out on top. The theme draws an implicit contrast to résumés being flaunted by other top Republicans — such as Ted Cruz, whose vocal fights in the Senate have failed; or Rubio, who backed away from immigration reform after a compromise he supported fell short.
“We fought, and we won,” Walker said in a video released Monday morning to tease his announcement. “In the Republican field, there are some who are good fighters. They haven’t won those battles. And there are some who have won elections but haven’t consistently taken on the big fights.”
“We showed we can do both,” Walker added.
So far, Walker has been successful. He is the clear frontrunner for the Iowa caucuses, and his advisers told the Washington Post recently they expect to win the state. Meanwhile, Walker ranks among the top three Republicans in New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
But Walker continues to face down doubts in particular about his command of foreign policy, an area where he stumbled early on. A shortcoming in that arena might be even more urgent as Republicans look ahead to a general election in which their nominee will likely face Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state.
“(Walker’s) lack of knowledge in the foreign policy area has been a problem because ... you want your commander in chief to be confident on those issues,” Bruce Perlo, chairman of the Grafton County Republican Committee in New Hampshire, told the New York Times.