- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Last year, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker snapped the political world to attention by becoming the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election.

Since then, the Republican has governed his state to a budget surplus, ushered in tax cuts and helped foster an economy that the Federal Reserve Bank says is one of the five fastest growing in the country. He also delivered a substantive, well-received speech at the annual 10,000-strong Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

PHOTOS: Scott Walker's 2016 dilemmas: Paul Ryan and re-election vs. a chance for the presidency

His record ordinarily would have conservatives dreaming of a 2016 White House bid, but two hurdles stand between Mr. Walker and a presidential nomination run.

His budget-cutting in Madison and the taming of the state’s public-sector employees unions have put a lot of noses out of joint. Yet he must attract independents and some Democrats to win re-election in November 2014 in order to be viable for the presidential nomination. Even if he wins, he has told friends, he won’t run in 2016 if fellow Wisconsinite Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman and Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate, decides he wants a presidential shot.

Outsiders understand there likely isn’t room for two Wisconsinites in 2016.

“It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Wisconsin’s two Republican stars — the governor and the congressman — both jump into the presidential nomination race,” said Rick Wiley, former Republican National Committee political director and former Wisconsin GOP executive director.

Mr. Walker and Mr. Ryan are close, talk to each other often and mutually agree that there is no way both will jump for the nomination simultaneously.

The good news for Walker supporters, according to some Wisconsin Republicans who know him well, is that Mr. Ryan could sit tight in Congress with an eye on eventually succeeding Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, as House speaker.

Some Republicans who hunger for a youth-appeal candidate who has earned his battlefield stripes say that, at 45, Mr. Walker would make an intriguing presidential ticket-topper.

Surviving a recall

On June 5, 2012, Mr. Walker captured the political world’s attention by surviving a recall election designed to punish him for his efforts to force concessions out of labor unions. To do that, he turned a poll deficit into a 53 percent to 46 percent win over Milwaukee’s mayor, Democrat Tom Barrett.

It impressed fellow Republicans, tea party activists and independents to see Mr. Walker smash an ouster drive initiated by the state’s powerful government employees unions and backed by Democrats outside the state.

Before becoming governor, the Colorado Springs Baptist minister’s son and college dropout twice won election as Milwaukee County executive. His campaign highlighted his record as a successful budget-slashing tax-cutter who gave back half his salary to taxpayers and encouraged government employees to give back some of their benefits to avoid draconian cuts in government services.

All that would make him a 2016 Republican candidate with strong managerial-executive experience in public office, something polls show voters value.

Story Continues →