Scott Walker Set To Enter Presidential Race On July 13th

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be entering the race for President later this month, but it's unclear if his recent turn to the hard right will help him or hurt him.

Scott Walker Speaking

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be the latest person to enter an already crowded Republican Presidential field when he throws his hat in the ring later this month:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will announce his presidential campaign intentions on the afternoon of July 13 in suburban Milwaukee, a Walker aide who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record said.

The two-term governor will make his announcement in Waukesha, just west of his home in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The date of the announcement was reported earlier Thursday byPolitico.

Walker, 47, is also expected on Thursday to file his papers of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, the aide said.

If he formally enters the race as expected, he would be the 15th Republican to do so. The most recent public polling in Iowa shows him atop the field in the state that will host the first nomination voting in February, although his standing has slipped this year as others have officially joined the contest.

Walker’s entry into the race is, of course, entirely unsurprising to anyone who’s been paying attention to American politics for about the past five years. Ever since winning election in Wisconsin in 2010, he has become the focus of attention for Republicans across the nation both because he was among those Republican candidates who managed to win in a typically Democratic state and because of the policies he enacted once in office and the furor that resulted from his opponents. The focus of that furor, of course, were the efforts of Walker and the Republican legislature to cut back on the powers of public employee unions, a confrontation that led to protests, Democratic legislators hiding out in a neighboring state to prevent a quorum, and Wisconsin itself turning into national battleground between the left and the right. Despite all of that, Walker managed to get the reforms passed and sustain them in the fact of  a legal battle that included an effort to unseat a member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Electorally, he not only won election in 2010, but then survived a recall effort in 2012 and won re-election in 2014, each time with wider margins of victory than the first. All of this enhanced Walker’s profile among Republicans nationally, obviously, and it became rather clear while he was running for re-election that he was at least considering the possibility of running for President.

When he does enter the race, Walker will benefit from the fact that he is already a frontrunner even though he hasn’t officially spent a day on the campaign trial. On the national level, he is currently in second place in the polling with an average of 10.6%, behind only former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Thanks in no small part to the fact that a good part of the Hawkeye State is part of one or more Wisconsin media markets and the fact that he has already been unofficially campaigning there for months, Walker is the undisputed leader in Iowa with a poll average at 17.5% and no other candidate averaging in double digits.Walker’s performance in New Hampshire is roughly equivalent to his standing in the national polls in that he has a 10.2% average in the Granite State with only Jeb Bush behind him. However, Walker’s numbers here have slipped in recent weeks as Donald Trump has surged. Walker is also in second place in South Carolina where he’s averaging 13.3% in the polling, and in Florida where he’s averaging 16.0% and leads Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has slipped to third place in his home state. In other words, Scott Walker is entering the race is a very strong position and will be considered one of the front runners for the nomination from the start his campaign. The question will be whether he can sustain the momentum that has built up while he has waited to enter the race.

In addition to his record in Wisconsin, one of the reasons the Walker is doing so well right now seems to clearly be due to the hard right turn he’s taken on a number of issues. On immigration, for example, Walker has essentially flip-flopped on comments he’s made in the past that were positive about the idea of an immigration reform plan that included legalization for undocumented immigrants and has even made statements that can only fairly be interpreted as critical of the idea of increased legal immigration. He has been an outspoken critic of the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and suggested that if he were elected he would abrogate whatever deal President Obama ends up making during the current negotiations. On social issues he’s endorsed the idea of a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and repeated those comments in the wake of last weeks Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. This last part is a blatant contradiction of the way he responded last October when Wisconsin lost its legal battle over the state’s law banning same-sex marriage and quite obviously an effort on his part to appeal to hard right social conservatives in states like Iowa.

From the perspective political strategy, Walker’s move to the hard right does make sense. After all, if he fails to win Iowa then his campaign would effectively be over and the Iowa Republican electorate, especially that portion most likely to attend caucuses, is definitely more conservative than the nation as a whole. As Jonathan Martin notes in The New York Times, though, this could end up costing Walker in the long run:

Mr. Walker’s shifts on issues this year have created friction with a variety of people open to supporting him. He used to oppose what he called government mandates on the use of ethanol in gasoline, for example, but told Iowans this year that he was willing to continue one, the Renewable Fuel Standard. The reversal was not well received in the political network led by the industrialists David H. and Charles G. Koch, according to a Republican aware of the reaction who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitivities over the group’s deliberations.

But his stance on marriage is what has disquieted people who had counted on Mr. Walker taking a more restrained approach to the culture wars.

For several months, according to four people briefed on the discussions who were not authorized to describe an off-the-record meeting, Republican donors who were advocates for legalizing same-sex marriage had worked quietly to try to build bridges to Mr. Walker, whose wife has a lesbian cousin whose wedding reception Mr. Walker attended.

The donors were cheered by a remark Mr. Walker made in the fall when he was locked in a hard-fought re-election battle. Asked about same-sex marriage after his state’s ban was struck down in federal court and the Supreme Court refused to review that decision, Mr. Walker said, “For us, it’s over in Wisconsin.”

The remark was also the subject of much critical discussion among social conservatives, according to one leader of that faction of the party, who was given anonymity to describe private conversations

At a gathering of Republican donors in New York in the spring, Mr. Walker indicated that his response to an eventual Supreme Court ruling, if it deemed same-sex marriage constitutional, would be in keeping with the spirit of his earlier remark about the question being a settled one in Wisconsin, people who attended the meeting said.

But since then, Mr. Cruz — whose uncompromising brand of conservatism and potential appeal to evangelical conservatives is, in the eyes of some Walker supporters, a direct threat in Iowa — is said to have benefited from more than $30 million in donations to “super PACs” supporting him.


If centrists and evangelical Republicans are concerned about what they see as Mr. Walker’s penchant for tactics over principles, his moves to strengthen his standing on the right in Iowa could come at a cost in other states — particularly New Hampshire, which has a much more secular electorate.

“Scott takes this path at his peril in New Hampshire,” said Charlie Bass, a former congressman there. By aligning himself with more conservative candidates on marriage, Mr. Walker puts at risk the support of more economy-focused voters in the first primary state, Mr. Bass said.

But Mr. Walker appears to have calculated that New Hampshire, and the states that come after it, will matter little if he does not succeed first in Iowa.

“He’s an establishment guy trying to show his conservative credentials,” said former Representative Tom Reynolds of New York. “He’s got to go in and win Iowa, and therefore his message has to resonate enough there on the right.”

That may also have explained his reversal on immigration: Until this year, Mr. Walker supported a comprehensive overhaul, including a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

Stephen Moore, a conservative scholar at the Heritage Foundation who backs an immigration overhaul, called Mr. Walker’s embrace of a border security first approach “a lurch to the right and probably something very popular among Iowa conservative voters.”

Mr. Moore said he had become concerned about Mr. Walker’s stance in recent weeks, but was reassured after a phone call with the Wisconsin governor.

He said, ‘I’m not going nativist; I’m pro-immigration,'” Mr. Moore recalled of the conversation.

As things stand right now, Governor Walker is shaping up to be the most credible of the more conservative alternatives to Jeb Bush. Tacking to the right in Iowa is something that pleases activists not only there, but in other parts of the country, and only helps to add to the national reputation that Walker has developed over the past four and a half years since he became Governor. At the same time, though, he risks turning off voters in far more important states early in the process. After all, if you look at the history it’s far more important for a Republican to win the primary in New Hampshire and/or South Carolina than it is to win in Iowa. Only twice — Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000 — has the winner of the Iowa Caucuses gone on to win the Republican nomination, and only one of those two candidate won the General Election. By concentrating so much on Iowa and the conservative voters he has to appeal to there, Walker may end up hurting his chances in New Hampshire, Florida, and the states that follow where the electorate is not going to be nearly as conservative as Iowa even in a closed primary. Whether Walker is able to figure out how to thread that needle and parlay success in Iowa into something national is something that we’ll have to watch as the months go on.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, 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:

    I really do feel that the hard Right base of the Republican Party feels as though the last two nominees – McCain and Romney – were not sufficiently conservative, and that this is there time to get a strong conservative.

    I think Walker is that person. He’s busted (with the exception of public safety worker) public employee unions, he’s hostile to the Wisconsin state university system, he is a strong advocate of tax cuts, and he pays sufficient lip-service to evangelicals by maintaining opposition to same sex marriage and to reproductive rights for women. And most important – he’s already pre-funded for the long run – the Koch’s are ready to bankroll Walker.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    In addition to his record in Wisconsin, one of the reasons the Walker is doing so well right now…

    His record in Wisconsin??? It’s the same record that failed Republican economic theories are producing everywhere they are tried:
    Wisconsin ranks 35th in economic performance…behind all of it’s neighboring states
    Behind the national average in job growth…and failed by a long shot to meet the 250,000 jobs Walker promised
    Behind the national average in wage growth
    Education funding has been slashed at every level
    People are leaving the state in droves
    What’s amazing, and telling, is that Republicans seem far more interested in what he is doing than the effects it is having. Maybe that explains his popularity in the party that has a dubious relation with facts.

  3. CSK says:

    Jim Webb just jumped in.

  4. MikeSJ says:

    For the right wingers Walker has the big plus of not being Jeb!

    His record is perfect – it attacks the right people and and the right institutions which is all they care about.

    Remember, these people still think Brownback in Kansas is a success.

  5. Gustopher says:

    Is no one arrogant enough to announce on the 4th of July?


  6. gVOR08 says:


    Jim Webb just jumped in.

    Did he say why?

  7. PJ says:


    Jim Webb just jumped in.

    Into the General Lee?

  8. CSK says:


    He said that the country needs “a fresh approach” to its problems.

  9. CSK says:

    Clad in a pair of Daisy Dukes.

  10. stonetools says:


    Gee, thanks. It’s going to take a few drinks to scrub THAT image from my mind

  11. Tillman says:

    In addition to his record in Wisconsin, one of the reasons the Walker is doing so well right now seems to clearly be due to the hard right turn he’s taken on a number of issues.

    Can I propose that we on this blog, neither authors nor commenters, never refer to Scott Walker by his first name again, and instead only refer to him as the Walker?

  12. David M says:

    Of course he’s running for president. Somewhere there is a union that needs to be taken down.

  13. bookdragon says:

    I’m sorry, I just can’t look at him w/o thinking ‘ferret-face’. The guy looks like the weasel that he keep proving to be.

  14. Grewgills says:

    Tillman will you be doing the tell?
    or were you thinking this?
    Maybe a mash up of the two

  15. JohnMcC says:

    @Tillman: OUCH! You just gave me a memory flash of ‘the Walkin’ Man’ from Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. I’ll be found hiding under my bed for the next hour or two.

  16. Dave D says:

    @C. Clavin: Walker’s strong record with the fine people of the state he “governs

    In April, a statewide poll conducted by the Marquette Law School reported that just 41 percent of Wisconsin residents approved of Walker’s performance as governor; 56 percent disapproved. (It also showed Walker losing in his home state to Hillary Clinton by 12 percentage points, 52-40.)

    Walker brags that as of February, Wisconsin now has more jobs than at any previous point in state history. While that’s nice, the national economy hit that landmark back in April 2014. He also claims that over the past four years, his policies have “turned a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a nearly $1 billion surplus.”

    Apparently, that latter claim comes as quite a surprise to the people of Wisconsin and to the Republican legislators stuck still trying to pass a state budget. To them, that $1 billion surplus looks suspiciously like a $2.2 billion deficit.

    Last month, Wisconsin was ranked last in the country in business startups, a fall of five spots from its previous ranking of 45th.

    Wisconsin Democrats dismissed Walker’s latest 2016 move, again criticizing him as an absentee governor.

    And the JS
    “The real news here is that Scott Walker will be in Wisconsin twice this month,” said Martha Laning, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

    And finally

    Wisconsin ranks worst among the 50 states in terms of a shrinking middle class, with real median household incomes here falling 14.7 percent since 2000, according to a new report.

    The Pew Charitable Trust report showed Wisconsin with the largest decline in the percentage of families considered “middle class,” or those earning between 67 and 200 percent of their state’s median income.

    He is clearly the man we need to run the nation’s economy to the ground as long as teachers can’t get raises.

  17. Dave D says:

    How this guy got reelected has mostly to do with the Dems running an empty suit who was terrible at campaigning and showed less than zero interest in the state. However, here is more about the majesty of this assholes record in the greatest state in the union (my opinion only).

    WEDC failure:

    fficials at Wisconsin’s top jobs agency sought federal tax incentives for a failing Milwaukee business for a year after being told that the owner was seeking the money to pay off business debts such as the leases on luxury cars.

    More WEDC failure:

    State auditors confirmed Tuesday that Gov. Scott Walker’s flagship job-creation agency failed to conduct a financial review of a struggling business that received a $500,000 state loan that is now in default and has not been repaid.

    His disdain for education:

    Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s colleges have been the targets of an ideologically motivated attack to undermine and dismantle higher education in this state. In his first term, Walker slashed funding for Wisconsin universities and technical colleges by nearly $400 million while in-state tuition rose by double digits. As tuition increased Walker froze funding for financial aid programs and cut tuition assistance by nearly $40 million, forcing college students to carry the weight of his extreme budget cuts. Earlier this year, Scott Walker defied the national trend and intensified his war on the on the University of Wisconsin System by proposing a massive budget cut of $300 million, the largest funding cut in University of Wisconsin history. He also included a proposal in the budget to eliminate portions of the Wisconsin Idea, the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement that codifies that the purpose of the University of Wisconsin System is to improve people’s lives outside the classroom. When confronted, Walker claimed the changes were the result of a “drafting error” and quickly withdrew the proposal. Records later revealed that Walker’s office had directed the changes over the concerns of University of Wisconsin System administrators. In addition, Walker’s budget proposal includes unprecedented assaults on academic freedom and university governance that are already driving away professors and faculty from across Wisconsin. Walker’s crusade against higher education is not “reform,” but is actually strategic and coordinated assault on universities across this state.

    Scott Walker’s policies have been devastating for Wisconsin’s schools. He forced almost $2 billion in real cuts, by cutting state funding, limiting what school districts could raise locally, and forcing cuts in per-pupil support for the first time ever. Instead, that money went to tax breaks he gave to corporations and the wealthy like the millionaires that bankrolled his campaigns.

    His disdain for teachers (aside from union busting):

    Anyone with a bachelor’s degree could be hired and licensed to teach sixth- through 12th-grade English, math, social studies or science in Wisconsin under a provision slipped into the state budget proposal by a Republican lawmaker.

    And any person with relevant experience — even a high school dropout — could be licensed to teach in any other non-core academic subject in those grades, according to the provision.

    Critics argue the changes, if approved, would dramatically lower Wisconsin’s teaching standards.

    And his ability to spend as little time governing while charging the taxpayer:

    In between the foreign trips, Walker has traveled nearly constantly within the United States, visiting four states this month, with two more trips planned for this week. For travel that is purely political, Walker’s political organization picks up the bill, including the cost of jetting state troopers around the country.

    All the travel doesn’t leave Walker much time at home in Wisconsin, where lawmakers are in the final days of setting a budget for the next two years. Walker is waiting until the budget is done to declare whether he will run, and there are reports of a July 13 announcement date.

    “I don’t know if he comes in through a tunnel, but I never see him here. Nobody has seen him here,” said state Rep. Chris Taylor, a Democrat from Madison. “I think he wants to be anywhere but the state of Wisconsin. I think he would go to Mars if he could.”

    The state budget is a bit of a mess. Republicans who dominate the legislature remain divided on two key issues: how to pay for major road projects and where to get the cash for a new basketball arena in Milwaukee so the Bucks, a professional basketball team, won’t relocate to another state.

    This guy is a complete joke and the idea that people outside of Wisconsin could be dumb enough to elect him to anything is both scary and infuriating. He has no record tom run on except one of failure and the fact that news sources outside of the state don’t make this point is sad. This man’s failure is such low hanging fruit.

  18. Dave D says:

    please release my comment from moderation, I perhaps had too many links but Walker’s failures are numerous and easily documented.

  19. JohnMcC says:

    @Dave D: Dave, we’re all friends here. You can speak your mind and tell us what you REALLY think. No need to mince words.

  20. I think the best analogue to Walker ’16 is Perry ’12.

    They had a head of steam before they entered. They checked all the right boxes. (Well funded! Evangelical! LIberals hate him!) And the media built them up because they were desperate to create a horse race.

    I bet that as soon as the national voters get a look at him, they’ll all go “oops.”