Politics & Government

Republican presidential hopeful Walker brings regular-guy campaign to crowd in Rock Hill

Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker greets visitors at a campaign stop at the American Legion in Rock Hill on Sunday.
Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker greets visitors at a campaign stop at the American Legion in Rock Hill on Sunday. special to The Herald

Republican Party, blue-collar Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker of Wisconsin brought a regular-guy preacher’s son campaign to a huge packed house Sunday afternoon in Rock Hill.

Walker slammed nobody. He didn’t even mention any other candidate by name. Especially Donald Trump.

Walker, speaking to more than 400 people at the American Legion post, referred to Trump as the man “in the middle of the stage” at Thursday’s debate who has taken the focus off of beating the Democrats.

As governor of Democratic-leaning Wisconsin, Walker survived a recall election, emerging stronger than ever after taking on and beating labor unions. He told the crowd in South Carolina that has the least organized labor in America and where the governor, other state leaders and many residents are decidedly anti-union that the opponent he wants to beat isn’t even in his own party. His focus is on Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee of the Democrats, not the 16 other candidates crowding the Republican field.

Walker, when questioned about Trump after the rally in an exclusive one-on-one interview with The Herald, said that the New Yorker’s comments about women and fellow Republicans, “have no place in a presidential election” and have become a distraction for voters.

York County, a conservative stronghold with huge blocks of Republicans in rural areas and northern York County, is key for Walker in South Carolina’s February primary. During the rally, as he stood without script or notes with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, Walker said Republicans must focus on keeping Clinton out of the White House.

Walker called Clinton a “deceiver” who “cannot be trusted.”

In talking with The Herald, Walker also said he supported Gov. Nikki Haley’s push to have the Confederate Flag removed from the grounds near South Carolina’s Statehouse. More, Walker praised the families of the nine Charleston shooting victims whose grace after the shootings that shocked America has “unified not just South Carolina, but the nation.”

A son of a Baptist preacher and grandson of a farmer and machinist, who admits he is frugal with a dollar to the point that he and his wife use coupons when buying clothes, Walker talked to the crowd about how he believes he can stand apart from other candidates by supporting government deregulation for business, reform of a federal government he believes has taken too much power from state and local governments and the people themselves, and protecting Americans from Islamic terrorists by beefing up the military and making the borders more secure.

Walker is the second candidate – after Rand Paul – to campaign in Rock Hill since Thursday’s debate. Yet Walker and other GOP candidates have had a difficult time getting out any message with all the uproar over Trump dominating news coverage. Trump talked to all the major networks Sunday except for Fox – with whom Trump now is feuding. Walker has held steady at third in most polls, behind Trump and Jeb Bush.

But Walker didn’t need to worry about Trump or Bush or others Sunday when he had the stage to himself. He appeared to be at ease and offered conversational flair and smiles, carrying the partisan conservative crowd with him as he talked about core Republican primary issues such as getting rid of the Affordable Care Act and Common Core federal education standards.

Walker went even further, saying that if he is president he wants no federal education standards – that states and local schools are better equipped to handle it.

All Walker’s talk and his image as the Midwestern conservative with Baptist upbringing seemed to endear him to the crowd that waved signs and clapped and cheered.

“He was straight to the point, said what he plans to do and reached out to people just like me and my wife,” said Rock Hill Republican voter Jeff Salvati, who said Walker likely won him over Sunday.

And because the event was on a Sunday afternoon, the crowd came from as far as Lancaster, Chester and other South Carolina counties, as well as Charlotte voters from North Carolina. Adam Bodily, a father of young kids, said that Walker was able Sunday – when not having to share the stage as in Thursday’s debate – to show a personal side that is familial and gracious – kind of like the guy next door.

“He was dynamic and well spoken, and he was able to get his message of values and passion to people,” Bodily said. More, Bodily added, Walker as governor and a county executive in Wisconsin has shown he can be a successful leader.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065