There are two kinds of candidates running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, at least as Scott Walker sees it. There are “fighters,” who are running a pugnacious campaign promising to aggressively stand up for conservative values, and there are “winners,” who have a proven resume that they want to transfer to the Oval Office.
And in the Wisconsin governor’s estimation, he’s the only one running for the nomination that fits into both categories.
“Only one (candidate) has done both,” Walker told the crowd sitting in the shade near the golf course at Sun City Carolina Lakes in Indian Land on Monday, “and gotten results.”
On the one hand, Walker is running on his resume after nearly five years as governor, where he and Republicans in the state legislature have enacted a series of conservative measures that GOP primary voters might like to see repeated in Washington.
But he’s also had to push for those measures in what was previously considered a “blue” state. When he was first elected in 2010, Walker was part of a wave that also flipped the legislature from Democrat to Republican and added some new GOP faces to Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. After Election Day, the new governor spoke to a Republican caucus meeting about the party’s newfound success.
“I told them the people heard the promises we made, and now if we just nibble around the edges, they will throw us out,” Walker recalled Monday. “It’s time to put up or shut up.”
In short order, Walker fought for changes to state law that would weaken the powerful unions representing Wisconsin’s public employees. That brought thousands of protestors down on Madison, streaming into the lobby of the statehouse. Opponents circulated a petition that forced Walker to defend himself in a recall election two years before the end of his first term.
“I feel like I should apologize, because Occupy Wall Street started on my street,” Walker said, adding that he and his family had to endure death threats, the opposition to fulfilling his campaign pledges were so strong.
But in the end, the law passed, Walker survived the recall election and then won a second term last year. In his second term, Walker went even further, signing legislation to turn Wisconsin into a right-to-work state.
Now, Wisconsin schools have some of the highest performing schools in the country, partly, Walker said, because administrators are free to “hire and fire based on performance.”
Beyond his record as governor, Walker hit on other points in his 30-minute address that were meant to emphasize that fighting message for conservative voters. He talked about the importance of federal policies that promote strong families.
“It’s not just a moral imperative. The data shows that children with two parents are more likely to graduate from school, more likely to start jobs and careers, and more likely to be free of government dependency,” he said. “Get rid of the marriage penalty (in federal tax law) and stop welfare policies that discourage fathers from being involved in their children’s lives.”
Like other GOP hopefuls, Walker talked about taking a more muscular approach to foreign policy, from confronting the Islamic State to Vladimir Putin. He said he would terminate President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran on day one and reimpose sanctions on the country. Where Obama has called climate change the biggest threat facing America, Walker insisted the biggest threat is still “radical Islamic terrorism.”
In total, Walker said he is running a campaign that appeals to every part of the Republican base – tea partiers, social conservatives and libertarians.
Voters at Monday’s rally were impressed with what the governor had to say. Pat Hillis of Sun City said she has seen a few of the Republican presidential hopefuls come through the area lately, and Walker, she said, is probably at the top of her list.
“He’s so down to earth, and he knows the problems we have in this country,” Hillis said. “I was very impressed.”
Rod Benfield of Rock Hill has researched the candidates, and echoing Walker’s argument, said he would support the governor based on his record.
“He’s got things done,” Benfield said. “If you look at somebody who has a successful track record, that says a lot.”
Rubio will be in Indian Land on Thursday
Voters in Indian Land will have a second chance to get up close and personal with a presidential hopeful for the second time this week.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will speak at Sun City Carolina Lakes on Thursday.
Rubio is scheduled to be on the back lawn of the Lake House, 5074 Grandview Drive, at 11:15 a.m.
Seating is available, but the Sun City Carolina Lakes Republican Club, which is hosting the senator, recommends you bring your own tailgate chairs.
The event is free to the public, but attendees are asked to RSVP ahead of time on the campaign stop’s Eventbrite page.
This will be the first stop by Rubio in the area since he announced his run for the White House earlier this year.
On Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker appeared at the same location to make his own pitch for the GOP’s presidential nomination.