- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Scott Walker told donors on Friday that he’s still praying about whether to run for president, even as the Wisconsin governor launched a website to raise money and hedged on earlier promises not to announce his intentions until after he signed the state budget.

Walker said in one fundraising email that he believes he is “uniquely qualified to lead this country.” In another, he asked supporters to help him raise $27,000 by July 12. Walker is expected to announce his candidacy shortly after that.

Walker’s fundraising blitz comes in advance of his near certain candidacy. He’s been traveling the country, raising money and building the infrastructure for months.

On Thursday Walker opened a “testing the waters” bank account, another step toward a run. On Friday he launched a new website, www.scottwalker.com , with the tag line “Ready for Walker?”

“I have been praying about this decision for a long time,” Walker, the son of a Baptist preacher, said in an email sent Friday asking for donations of between $10 and $500. When Walker first acknowledged he was serious considering running for president back in November, shortly after winning re-election to a second term, he said he was praying about it.

Walker has been traveling the country for months, along with other announced and likely Republican presidential candidates. On Saturday, Walker was scheduled to speak at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia and at the Road to Majority conference in Washington.

He returned this week from a trade mission in Canada, his fourth overseas trip in five months.

Wisconsin Democratic Party chairwoman Martha Laning said it’s ridiculous for Walker to act as if he hasn’t already made up his mind about running.

“Scott Walker isn’t ‘testing the waters,’ he’s pushing the limits on how much money he can raise before he officially announces his candidacy,” she said in a statement. “It’s absurd to believe he’s basing his decision on whether to run for president on how many $10 donations he gets.”

For months, Walker said he wouldn’t announce whether he would run for president until after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the state budget.

“We won’t do anything, we won’t make any public pronouncement one way or the other, until after the budget is signed,” he said on May 7.

But on Thursday, Walker told reporters following an event in Ripon that his goal “has always been to get through the end of the budget year which ends June 30th. We’ll see after that.”

Republicans legislators have been at a budget impasse for three weeks, with no resolution in sight. In his fundraising emails, Walker doesn’t talk about that standstill, but instead touts past victories and even takes a not-so-veiled swipe at Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I didn’t inherit fame or fortune and I don’t think being President is by birthright, but I do believe I am uniquely qualified to lead this country,” Walker wrote, echoing comments he’s made in stump speeches.

Walker, who won a 2012 recall motivated by his push to effectively end collective bargaining for public workers, said in another fundraising message Friday that “it took guts to take on the Big Government Labor Bosses who were used to running the show in Wisconsin.”

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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