At Republican convention, Walker works to remain on national stage in 2020
Shawn Johnson Wisconsin Public Radio Gov. Scott Walker spent this week at the Republican National Convention meeting with delegates from states with early presidential primaries. It's inviting speculation that Walker wants to run for president ag...
Wisconsin Public Radio
Gov. Scott Walker spent this week at the Republican National Convention meeting with delegates from states with early presidential primaries.
It’s inviting speculation that Walker wants to run for president again in 2020 or beyond, though some Republicans said they’re not sure he’ll have what it takes.
When Walker spoke to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, it was hard to miss the similarities to his 2015 speech in Iowa that launched Walker’s short-lived presidential campaign. As he did in Iowa, Walker stepped away from the podium to address the crowd. His cadence was familiar. And the speech even recycled some lines from Walker’s presidential stump.
"If conservative reforms can work in a blue state like mine, they can work anywhere in the country," Walker said.
For someone whose Wisconsin approval remains low and whose federal campaign remains mired in debt, Walker continues to project high ambitions.
But whether he’ll even have the chance to run for president in any meaningful way remains an open question.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is the controversial social conservative who hosted the event where Walker gave his first big speech last year. King said he thinks Walker has a chance to launch another presidential bid because of the way he ended the last one.
"He came out of our even Jan. 24 of last year and popped to the top of the polls almost immediately. That’s a pretty heavy burden to have to take on right away," said King. "He had to get tooled up to carry that. And I think he came to the realization very early that it wasn’t going to work this time. And that decision he made - it was strong, it was bold, decisive, definitive. And I think that keeps his options open for another time."
But if Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump loses this year and 2020 is another wide open primary for Republicans, Walker would face new opponents. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who decided to stay out of this presidential race, could decide in 2020 that he wants to get in. If it’s a choice between those two Wisconsin Republicans, former Gov. Tommy Thompson said the decision would be clear.
"If Donald Trump does not win in 2016, Paul Ryan will be the candidate in 2020. I’m pretty certain of it, and I will support him," he said.
Pressed on whether Walker has a future in state or national politics, Thompson steered the conversation back to Ryan.
"Well, I think Scott Walker will always have a place in the Republican Party in Wisconsin. Nationally, I think Paul Ryan’s got a much better, much better path to the White House," Thompson said.
Pressed on a similar question about Ryan versus Walker, Milwaukee conservative talk radio host Charlie Sykes had a similar take.
"I think that Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of the conservative movement in the Republican Party," he said. "However, I think it’s very, very difficult to run for president from the position of speaker."
The speakership, Sykes said, will force Ryan to make compromises and those compromises won’t help him with the Republican base.
Another issue for both Ryan and Walker, Sykes said, is that they’ve both endorsed Trump. Sykes is an outspoken Trump opponent. Until recently, Walker and Ryan were Trump critics, too.
"I think they’re making the calculation with the Republican base by endorsing Donald Trump," Sykes said. "I would suggest that it’s more complicated than that. I think it’s going to be very hard for them to wipe off the Donald Trump stink."
Walker used his speech at the Republican National Convention to praise Trump. Other Republicans are making different calculations. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz declined to endorse Trump, and used his speech to call on Republicans to vote their conscience in November. Cruz’s speech dominated national news. Walker’s was an afterthought.
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