Scott Walker Looks To Be Preparing To Run For President

Fresh off his third statewide win in four years, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker appears to be getting ready to run for President.

2013 Conservative Political Action Conference

With the 2014 midterms largely over except for a Runoff Election in Louisiana that will have no real impact on the balance of power in the Senate, attention is naturally starting to turn to the race for President. On the Democratic side, we have former Senator Jim Webb forming an exploratory committee while aides close to Hillary Clinton hinting at an announcement in January. On the Republican side meanwhile, talk is turning to a Governor who spent much of his first term embattled and seemingly on the edge of political defeat who has nonetheless emerged victorious and largely unscathed, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, pivoting from his bigger-than-expected reelection win this month, is taking active steps toward a presidential campaign that would launch next summer and contrast his record of conservative achievements in a swing state with paralysis in Washington.

In interviews this week, Walker and his top political advisers provided the fullest account yet of his plans for the likely rollout of a national campaign. The 47-year-old Republican intends to use an upcoming legislative session in Wisconsin to push an ambitious agenda that could, in combination with his triumphs over Big Labor, bolster his standing with Republican primary voters: Repealing unpopular Common Core standards, requiring drug tests for welfare beneficiaries and cutting property taxes.

“I think there’s going to be a hunger for a leader who can actually can get things done,” Walker said by phone Wednesday, even as he cautioned that he hasn’t firmly decided to run. “The closer I’ve gotten to this position, the more I’ve realized that anyone who really wants to be president has to be a little crazy … The only way you should run is if you feel called to.”

But it’s clear he and his aides are already discussing details of when a campaign would get underway and what it would look like.

They said it would be headquartered near the state capital of Madison. And Walker has asked a cadre of aides from his reelection campaign to stay on board for a potential 2016 bid, including senior advisers Keith Gilkes, Stephan Thompson and R.J. Johnson.

Walker is crafting a budget that he intends to be a blueprint for conservative governance. He will unveil it in late January, and the final version would go into effect on July 1 – after a spring legislative session.

“Any (presidential decision) that would come officially would have to come after that,” Walker said. “That could be midsummer. I want to fulfill those obviously important responsibilities.”


As for his path to the nomination, Walker has many things going for him: He’s the son of a Baptist minister who spent part of his childhood in neighboring Iowa, the caucus kickoff state. His staunch opposition to abortion has further boosted his popularity among social conservatives. And his admirers see him as a Harley-riding, Miller-drinking guy who scores high on the “Would you want to have a beer with him?” test.

But Walker lacks the charisma that other likely candidates, such as Christie or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), possess on the stump. He did not graduate from college, though some blue-collar voters might see this as a positive, and lacks foreign policy experience.

There’s also the so-called John Doe investigation by a special prosecutor into coordination between Walker’s campaign advisers and conservative outside groups who spent on his behalf during the recall. Walker strongly denies wrongdoing, and a federal judge halted the investigation this spring. Documents related to the appeal of that decision continued to trickle out during this year’s race, but it ultimately was a non-factor in the election.

Walker has also cultivated an impressive national fundraising network. He raised more than $25 million for this year’s campaign and raised another $30 million for the 2012 recall. Walker hasn’t asked for firm commitments from donors for 2016, but he has built relationships during semi-regular trips to New York City the past few years. During the most recent campaign, a little under half his money — $11 million – came from outside the state.

His successful battle against unions has helped him amass a national email list of small donors.

Walker’s name has been on a short list of Republican Presidential candidates for some time now, in no small part because of the political battle he engaged in with state employee unions in 2011 that turned into a nationwide campaign that eventually inspired similar, though not as far reaching legislation in states such as Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. It was in Wisconsin, though, that the battle was joined as, for the better part of the early months of 2011, protesters took over the public areas of the State Capitol in Madison and Democratic members of the State Senate secreted themselves away in an undisclosed location in an effort to deny that body the quorum necessary to proceed forward with any action, which was the only thing they could at the time since the GOP held the majority in the body at the time. Eventually, the legislation passed, but that was only the beginning of the battle. There were court challenges, an election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that would have decided the fate of the legal challenges to the bill, and then recall elections directed at several State Senators and, later, at Walker and his Lieutenant Governor themselves. In the end, Walker prevailed and has manged, despite the odds and polling before the elections showing each race being far closer than it turned out to be, won three elections in the past four years, in 2010, in a recall election in 2012, and then again in 2014, in a state that has voted for the Democratic candidate for President in every election since 1988. To the extent that Republicans are looking for a candidate with a winning record outside of red states and a record of executive experience, something that Walker himself has already said is important, Walker’s name seems to be one that would logically be at the top of their list.

For what it’s worth, I’ve tended to see a lot of positive feedback about a potential Walker campaign among conservative bloggers and opinion makers in the weeks before and since the midterm election. In no small part, of course, that’s likely because of the positive coverage he received from that end of the political spectrum during his confrontation with the unions and his string of electoral victories. Additionally, though, there seems to be a strong desire from many activists for a candidate with a real record as an executive rather than just a Senator who is famous for little more than making speeches. In that kind of environment, a candidate like Walker could go far in a Republican primary because he would appeal to both movement conservatives because of the union thing and to more mainstream Republicans because of his experience.

That being said, there are potential downsides to a Walker candidacy. The ongoing “John Doe” investigation, for example, could unearth something damaging, although it seems like anything like that would have come out already if it actually existed. More importantly, though, there’s the question of what kind of candidate Walker would be on the national level. My experience in being able to judge him on this basis is admittedly minimal, but I’ve gotten the impression that Walker tends to come across as somewhat similar to Tim Pawlenty, who ran for President in 2012 and never really got anywhere. Both men are eminently qualified, but neither one of them seems very energetic on the stump, and that’s an important part of running for President in this day and age. Perhaps the passion for Walker will be greater because of the attention he’s gotten nationally over the past four years, but it’s also possibly that he will flame out in the same manner that his former fellow Governor from Minnesota did. That, in the end, is something we’ll only know if Walker does run. Right now at least, it looks like we’ll probably find out soon enough.

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, 2016 Election, Environment, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    Busting Public Sector unions, supporting vote suppression in Wisconsin, the recipient of Koch monies – I’d say he’s a damn near perfect Republican candidate.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    There is no way that anyone is going to vote for a college drop out for President. This is just a bunch of bored pundits trying to create an issue with someone who has no business running for president.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    Another clown in the clown car.
    How are those Republican policies working in Wisconsin? Oh? Not so good, you say?

  4. grumpy realist says:

    If we elect Walker as POTUS we’ll deserve everything that happens to us. Just like what’s presently happening in Kansas.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: What does policy success, or lack thereof, have to do with Republican primaries? Or, for that matter, policy at all.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    …a real record as an executive rather than just a Senator who is famous for little more than making speeches.

    Isn’t this a variation on Cleek’s Law? Conservatives believe the most important characteristic in a President is whatever they allege the current Democratic incumbent or candidate lacks, updated daily.

  7. MikeSJ says:

    Maybe it’s just me but the smarmy vibe I get off of him is off the charts. Timeshare salesman kinda vibe is what I’m saying.

    Plus those beady eyes.

    I’m not seeing this candidate get off the launch pad.

  8. JKB says:

    @superdestroyer: There is no way that anyone is going to vote for a college drop out for President.

    Yes, because having a college graduate as President, who had/has no executive experience, has worked out so well these last few years.

    Not to mention, college dropouts never amount to anything, not like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Elizabeth Holmes to name a few.

    Walker, did leave Marquette, but in good standing, as a senior with a semester or a year of additional credits needed to graduate. Of course, he was admitted to college and was active in student government. He left for a career opportunity, ran for office, then took a marketing/fundraising job with the Red Cross. More recently, he has been elected to county and state legislative offices as well as has been a successful Republican governor in a very blue state, even as he’s won 3 statewide elections in 4 years.

    Surely, someone like that, with actual experience instead of a certificate from a center of indoctrination, has potential to be a successful President.

    This embodies the credential vs. competency debate over higher education.

  9. JKB says:

    Having Walker run, even if he if only marginally successful in the primaries would be an excellent investment by the GOP as he would drain the union coffers as well as many other Dem donors.

  10. Dave D says:

    Well when his billion dollar tax increase to fund the department of transportation hits I bet he is less popular. But as he said in a phone interview from Florida it isn’t his tax increase.

  11. Franklin says:

    I’m actually surprised that we’re even entertaining the idea that a Republican candidate has a chance. Oh, wait, no I’m not. The American people have the memory of a mayfly and don’t remember the last time the Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers. Or maybe they’re just blocking it out.

  12. al-Ameda says:


    Not to mention, college dropouts never amount to anything, not like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Elizabeth Holmes to name a few.

    All Democrats?

  13. Gustopher says:

    And his admirers see him as a Harley-riding, Miller-drinking guy who scores high on the “Would you want to have a beer with him?” test.

    I don’t know what is worse, people wanting to have a beer with someone who drinks Miller, or that this is an important hurdle Presidential candidates have to get through.

    The fact that John Kerry lost the key “who would you rather have a beer with?” test to a man who doesn’t drink has always amused me though.

  14. Tony W says:

    @gVOR08: It’s funny that I completely missed that as a dig at Obama – I was actually focused on Ted Cruz with Doug’s snarky comment.

  15. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher: People vote for people they like, or at least feel they can relate to. G. W. Bush is every bit the rich career politician John Kerry is, but Bush comes off like a down-home “regular” guy while Kerry doesn’t.

    But don’t get me started on Miller…blech. Or as the Germans would say, Pißwasser.

  16. C. Clavin says:


    Yes, because having a college graduate as President, who had/has no executive experience, has worked out so well these last few years.

    It just warms my cockles to see that you are at last acknowledging the tremendous success of the Obama Presidency…marked most recently by the prevention of over 4 million families being ripped apart at the hands of those who claim to be the true guardians of Christianity in our political system. Kudos on your evolution.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    Wait, I’ll never be president because I dropped out of college? (Also, High School.) This is concerning. I’d assumed I was being rejected because of laziness, criminal acts, drug use, misanthropy and an inability to refrain from dropping F-bombs. And all along it was leaving SF State? Damn.

  18. superdestroyer says:


    Considering the last four presidents have attended either Harvard or Yale, no, the U.S. is not going to elected a college drop out. The real question for the U.S. is whether we will have another president who only has an undergraduate degree or a degree from a state university.

    My guess is that it will be a long time before the U.S. elects a non-Ivy Leaguer considering the rampant credentialism that exist today.

  19. superdestroyer says:


    There have actually been a series of articles and web posts from the more serious wonks and pundits speculating that the blue wall may already be at 270 electoral votes for the Democrats. The idea that the Republicans can win in 2016 is laughable.

  20. Gustopher says:

    @superdestroyer: What if somehow the Democrats nominate Martha Coakley? Or John Kerry again? Or Hillary Clinton?

    It’s complete bunk to say that the Republicans can’t win. The odds are against them, but a weak Democratic candidate, or an especially strong Republican one could change that.

  21. Gustopher says:

    @MikeSJ: That’s what I thought about Romney: a shockingly inauthentic man.

  22. michael reynolds says:


    Could happen, but the GOP has a steep hill to climb. Which state or states would Walker flip? Maybe Wisconsin? He’d need a whole lot more than that, the map is not favorable to the GOP.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: The out party is never more than a crisis or a scandal away from power.

  24. Tillman says:

    I’d think pushing through the unionbusting despite having never campaigned on it as among his first actions in office would open up so many possible avenues of attack.

  25. Pinky says:

    I personally don’t like politicians who don’t stay in office a reasonable stretch. Leaving your fourth year is understandable, but running for the sole purpose of launching another campaign doesn’t sit well with me. If you don’t want to be governor of Wisconsin, don’t run for governor of Wisconsin. Ditto governor of NJ, senator of NY in 2006, and a long list of others.

  26. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: I think any strong Republican candidate could win Ohio and Florida, if there was a weak Democratic ticket.

    I worry because I don’t really want to have a beer with Hillary Clinton. She might order a glass of wine!

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Flipping Ohio and Florida isn’t enough. Starting from the 2012 election as a baseline, it would still leave the GOP nominee 17 electoral votes short.

  28. bill says:

    @superdestroyer: true, bill gates dropped out and look what he became! it’s gonna be a fun ride next year, can’t wait to see who passes the test.
    @Gustopher: wisconsin= miller beer. john kerry strikes me as a high priced wine snob who i’d rather not be near.
    @al-Ameda: i thought bill gates was the anti-christ for stealing jobs stuff and drinking his milkshake? sure he’s tossed some money at liberal things but do you really like the guy?