As a primer for the upcoming 2016 Republican presidential primary, Opportunity Lives will introduce you to some of the potential candidates, each of whom, in his or her own way, have helped to advance our shared cause of free markets and free people. You can read all the stories in the series here.
Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) has won three gubernatorial elections in four years. In 2010, the purple state of Wisconsin voted in the conservative county commissioner over Tom Barrett, the Democrat mayor of Milwaukee, by a margin of 53.1 percent to 46.3 percent. In 2012, public sector unions, miffed by Walker’s sensible reforms, shored up enough support for a recall election, which he won handily anyway with 53.1 percent of the vote. In 2014, political pundits prognosticated that Walker’s political future would finally come to an end when he faced Democrat challenger Mary Burke in his re-election campaign. Instead, Walker soared to victory over Burke, 52.3 percent to 46.6 percent. He did all of this in a left-of-center state that voted for Obama by 14 points in 2008 and again in 2012 by eight.
Now, many Americans want the Wisconsin governor to run for president. Walker’s got an impressive record, with thrice-proven electability, Midwestern likeability and a reform agenda that takes a common sense governing approach rooted in conservative principles. Even in the face of some pretty baseless (if not all-together corrupt and sinister) attacks, Walker, like Sen.-elect Cory Gardner of Colorado, is a fresh face of the GOP who is positive, solutions-oriented and, despite his youth, mature.
Of course, Walker is best known for, as his enemies would put it, union-busting in Wisconsin. The proposal, Wisconsin Act 10, meant to salvage the state’s upside-down finances by asking public workers to contribute more to their own retirement plans. Ultimately, his budget passed and it was held up by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Wisconsin Supreme Court.
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With our country facing more than $18 trillion in debt and the compounding costs of entitlement programs, our next president should be prepared to perform a total overhaul of our nation’s finances. Walker may be just the guy to do it. In Wisconsin, he inherited a similar crisis when his Democrat predecessor, Governor Jim Doyle, left him a $3.6 billion budgetary deficit. Walker transformed this to a $911 million surplus – without raising taxes.
Deroy Murdock of National Review points out that on Walker’s watch, the unemployment rate in the Badger State plummeted from 7.7 percent to just 5.5 percent. He also notes that per capita income has increased under Walker – from $38,755 to $43,149. Wisconsin employers are feeling optimistic, too, with 95 percent believing the state is on the right track, compared to just 9 percent when Walker first took office.
“After enduring the hapless administration of an Ivy League president, perhaps our country would be better off led by a common sense reformer”
While he has withstood elitist sneers for his lack of a college diploma, others find his utter normalcy to be refreshing. After enduring the hapless administration of an Ivy League president, perhaps our country would be better off led by a common sense reformer with executive experience solving real world problems. And should Walker choose to complete his degree program – something aides confirmed he’d like to do soon, he could certainly demonstrate empathy for those Americans who juggle raising a family, maintaining a career and finishing their education.
On the issues, Walker’s platform would be palatable for most any conservative. He’s an ardent Second Amendment supporter, a vocal proponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline, an opponent of any and all tax increases, an unabashed fiscal hawk on budgetary matters, a champion of enhanced border security and a believer in the sanctity of life.
For the rest of the American electorate, Walker’s got a lot to offer, too. As he rightfully points out, Republican governors have born the burden of the destructive decisions of Washington and have still managed to grow their local economies and balance their states’ budgets. In Wisconsin, his affirmative agenda won over Obama voters because it transformed a government that was too large and too inefficient into one that was a lot smaller and worked better for people too. Walker explains, “In Washington the fight is over ‘fiscal cliffs,’ ‘debt limits,’ ‘sequesters’ and ‘shutdowns.’ In the states, Republicans focus on improving education, caring for the poor, reforming government, lowering taxes, fixing entitlements, reducing dependency, improving health care, and creating jobs and opportunity for the unemployed.”
During an era where Americans so deeply distrust what happens inside the Beltway, Walker offers them a different choice – real results. This includes job creation, getting our nation’s fiscal house in order, bolstering our national defense, truly reforming health care and other policy planks that most voters view quite favorably.
Walker also represents optimism through adversity, the kind Americans would like to experience themselves during these troubled times. His resiliency and resolve is matched only by his characteristic humility and a calm demeanor — even in the face of noisy and vicious opposition. This is the sort of leadership that unites a fractured country around common goals and our shared values – something we desperately need.
Ellen Carmichael is a Washington, D.C.-based political consultant. She has served as a senior communications adviser for a Republican presidential campaign, Members of Congress and statewide elected officials. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.