Walker Tells Private Group He'll Skip Florida Primary

Walker Tells Private Group He'll Skip Florida Primary
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Scott Walker has insisted he will be able to “compete anywhere in the country” as a candidate for president — but, at a private event in St. Louis on Sunday, Walker said he does not plan to compete in Florida, contradicting his own public assertions that he would not skip that primary.

During a fundraiser at the St. Louis home of Rex Sinquefield, Missouri’s most active Republican donor, Walker reasoned that it “doesn't make a ton of sense for him to pour cash into Florida” with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the race, said one person who was present for Walker’s remarks. Bush is a former Florida governor, and Rubio is a senator from Florida.

Instead, Walker suggested he will focus on the Midwestern states with primaries around the same time, the source said — including Missouri, Illinois and Ohio, which are slated to hold their primaries March 15, the same day as Florida’s.

A second person who was present confirmed that Walker said it would not make sense for him to try to compete in Florida with Rubio and Bush in the race.

Walker also predicted that the Republican primary contest could extend into April, the first person said, which would make any one primary, even in a large state such as Florida, less important to Walker’s overall strategy.

This rundown of Walker’s campaign strategy, which he shared with a closed-door audience of Missouri elected officials and Republican donors, marks a departure from how he has framed his path to the Republican nomination in public, particularly in regards to Florida.

In a May interview with radio host Laura Ingraham, Walker made headlines when he suggested that he might pass over the Florida primary, one of the first winner-take-all contests, because the home-field advantage for Bush and Rubio would be too strong.

"I don't think there's a state out there we wouldn't play in, other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are ... essentially tied," he said.

But Walker later attempted to walk back that remark, telling reporters during a trip to Florida in June: "If I didn't think I could compete, I wouldn't be here today.”

His comments to Ingraham, Walker added, were merely “in deference to two favorite sons here in Florida,” the New York Times reported. “And I thought that Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio certainly would have a competitive advantage over anybody because of their presence as favorite sons in this state and having won statewide elections.”

In a statement to RealClearPolitics on Tuesday, Walker’s campaign echoed those remarks by Walker in June, insisting he intends to “play everywhere."

“The governor is going to play everywhere as evidenced by his travel to 11 states since becoming a candidate,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Walker. "We have long said Gov. Walker has appeal with voters of all kinds across all states, but we have also acknowledged the obvious that there are two Floridians in the race." 

Meanwhile, Walker has consistently stressed that his strategy to win the Republican nomination, and perhaps even the presidency, would hinge on winning Midwestern states.

"The path for a Republican to win the presidency comes through the Midwest," Walker told crowds in Iowa during his recent three-day swing through the state, part of his announcement tour following his presidential campaign launch earlier this month.

Walker already appears to be cultivating his network in Missouri. Among those in attendance at the fundraiser Sunday were Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder; former Sen. Jim Talent; Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer; former gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence; and former Senate candidate John Brunner, who has announced a bid for governor. 

Rebecca Berg is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at rberg@realclearpolitics.com.

 

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