Scott Walker Thinks the Ideal 2016 GOP Nominee Looks Just Like Him

The Republican governor wants to talk about economic, not social issues, as he pretends to dislike national chatter.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
Nov. 22, 2013, 7:37 a.m.

Gov. Scott Walk­er was 800 miles from Madis­on, in a hotel con­fer­ence room two blocks from the White House — a room filled with na­tion­al re­port­ers — after a week of in­ter­views with na­tion­al me­dia out­lets and about to em­bark on a na­tion­wide book tour, when he made a de­clar­a­tion.

“I’m not fo­cused on the na­tion­al,” the Wis­con­sin Re­pub­lic­an said. “I’m fo­cused on be­ing gov­ernor.”

The half-hearted dis­claim­er aside, it’s clear from Walk­er’s sched­ule, his book, and his turn on the na­tion­al stage that he wants to be a part of the 2016 pres­id­en­tial con­ver­sa­tion. Walk­er bragged about his abil­ity to draw “Obama-Walk­er” voters, des­pite the ideo­lo­gic­al gulf between him and the pres­id­ent.

Best known for do­ing battle with uni­ons in his home state and then be­com­ing the first gov­ernor to beat back a re­call, Walk­er said he and his party need to re­main fo­cused on fisc­al and eco­nom­ic is­sues — the “bread and but­ter of what the party’s about.”

Sure, he said he’s “pro-life” and, “I don’t apo­lo­gize for that. But I don’t fo­cus on it. I don’t ob­sess with it.” He kept try­ing to steer the con­ver­sa­tion to eco­nom­ic is­sues as re­port­ers quer­ied him on so­cial ones, such as gay mar­riage.

“Without be­ing in­sult­ing, but you kind of make my point about how me­dia seem to be more ob­sessed with so­cial is­sues than the av­er­age voters,” Walk­er said at one point.

He brushed off 2016 talk at the same time as he said the per­fect can­did­ate would look, well, kind of like him.

“An ideal can­did­ate to me would be a cur­rent or former gov­ernor,” Walk­er said. “Just be­cause I think gov­ernors have ex­ec­ut­ive ex­per­i­ence and, more im­port­antly, I think there’s a real sense across Amer­ica that people want an out­sider.”

He not­ably drew an “ex­cep­tion” to this rule for home state Rep. Paul Ry­an, the 2012 vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee. But that still leaves out many of the top tier of 2016 GOP con­tenders in the Sen­ate, in­clud­ing Rand Paul, Marco Ru­bio, and Ted Cruz.

Un­like the oth­er Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor from a blue state be­ing touted as pres­id­en­tial tim­ber, Chris Christie of New Jer­sey, Walk­er still faces a tough reelec­tion in 2014 ahead of any po­ten­tial pres­id­en­tial run.

It’s one of the chief reas­ons Walk­er must re­main so cagey about 2016.

Cor­rec­tion: A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this story mis­quoted Scott Walk­er as say­ing “An ideal can­did­ate to me would be a cur­rent re­former gov­ernor.” He said “An ideal can­did­ate to me would be a cur­rent or former gov­ernor.”

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