Scott Walker Is Trying to Woo CPAC. And It’s Working.

The Wisconsin governor continued his pivot toward the right in his CPAC speech Thursday, and the crowd loved it.

Lauren Fox
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Lauren Fox
Feb. 26, 2015, 12:51 p.m.

Scott Walk­er found his stride in a rowdy Con­ser­vat­ive Pol­ic­al Ac­tion Con­fer­ence crowd Thursday dur­ing a speech ag­gress­ively tout­ing his re­cord as Wis­con­sin gov­ernor to of­fer evid­ence for why he’s ready to take on the White House in 2016.

“If we can do it in Wis­con­sin, we can do it across Amer­ica,” Walk­er said.

After re­fus­ing to an­swer ques­tions about wheth­er Pres­id­ent Obama was Chris­ti­an and de­clin­ing to clearly out­line his po­s­i­tion on evol­u­tion in re­cent weeks, Walk­er did not shy away from some con­ten­tious so­cial is­sues, such as abor­tion, that have be­come stum­bling blocks for him. Be­fore an eager crowd, Walk­er con­tin­ued his cam­paign to prove he is both prag­mat­ic and con­ser­vat­ive enough to win the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion. He men­tioned lower prop­erty taxes, the ex­pan­sion of Second Amend­ment rights, and de­fund­ing Planned Par­ent­hood — all to prove that he can “fight and win” in Wis­con­sin, a state where a Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate has not won for 30 years.

The crowd ate up Walk­er’s one-liners as he made the case that it was time for Wash­ing­ton to get off the backs of the tax­pay­er. He called D.C. “68 square miles sur­roun­ded by real­ity.”

“Here in Amer­ica there is a reas­on we cel­eb­rate the Fourth of Ju­ly and not April 15th,” Walk­er said. “Be­cause in Amer­ica, we cel­eb­rate our in­de­pend­ence from the gov­ern­ment, not our de­pend­ence on it.”

Walk­er got an un­ex­pec­ted op­por­tun­ity to flex his le­gendary anti-uni­on muscles on stage when pro­test­ers in­ter­rup­ted his speech by shout­ing from the crowd.

“Those voices can­not drown out the mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans who want us to stand up for the hard­work­ing tax­pay­ers,” Walk­er said to the pro­test­ers.

While former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush is ex­pec­ted to struggle at CPAC to es­cape the tag of “mod­er­ate” and win over so­cial con­ser­vat­ives, Walk­er has man­aged to use his uni­on-bust­ing and budget-slash­ing repu­ta­tion to win early ap­prov­al from Re­pub­lic­ans across the spec­trum.

Walk­er has en­joyed a strong entry in­to the in­vis­ible 2016 pres­id­en­tial primary, lead­ing in a poll in Iowa this week and oc­cupy­ing the rare space between the tea party and the es­tab­lish­ment.

At CPAC, Walk­er proved he can com­fort­ably walk that tightrope. Dur­ing his ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion, the audi­ence erup­ted in­to cheers of “run Scott run.”{{ BIZOBJ (slideshow: 890) }}

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