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Scott Walker, the Motorcycle Daredevil of the GOP Scott Walker, the Motorcycle Daredevil of the GOP

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Scott Walker, the Motorcycle Daredevil of the GOP

June 8, 2012
Scott Walker was proven right. In sporting terms, the man who will remain Wisconsin's governor literally bet his house on the premise that his sweeping antiunion measures would survive--and he along with them. He was willing to sunder his state, subject its residents to almost ceaseless turmoil, and force opposing sides to spend millions of dollars in combat to see his gamble through.

Today, Walker, having survived the recall effort by a comfortable margin, looks to be vindicated. To conservatives nationwide, he is a hero. And more crucially, he is a role model, one who may embolden Republicans from Mitt Romney, should he take the White House, on down when it comes to governing in a highly volatile and polarized political climate.

Indeed, while much of the nation may look upon Wisconsin as a cautionary tale that stars a wet-behind-the-ears chief executive who spurned compromise, overreached, and exposed his state to national derision, his supporters view it differently. At what could be a time for contemplation for both sides, a time to moderate ambitious agendas, Walker is like the motorcycle daredevil brushing off a near-death experience, egged on by cheering fans to leap over the next barricade.

For even as Walker's victory raises GOP hopes about a state that has voted for the Democratic nominee since 1988, it's more than a simple harbinger of November. Republicans around the country are pointing to his success as a paradigm for implementing radical austerity measures and taking on yesterday's sacred cows, from Walker's rollback of the institutionalized perquisites of civil service, to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's targeting of federal entitlement programs, to Romney's vow to repeal President Obama's health care plan. The GOP's presidential candidate declared that the recall results "will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin."

"This election in Wisconsin is a platform, a foundation for the future," said Matt Langston, a Walker volunteer and political consultant who helped Republican Sen. Ron Johnson defeat Democratic icon Russell Feingold in the 2010 Senate race. "This isn't a fluke or a onetime deal. It doesn't stop with one election. It keeps moving forward."

Cover story of this week's National Journal magazine, available to subscribers only, continues here.
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