But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s game plan for the next three years is quietly taking shape: Win reelection next year in this purple state without moderating a record that has won many hearts in the conservative base; let the other GOP hopefuls get sullied by the mud pit of Congress and each other; then pounce in 2015.
That, in essence, is the outline of the likely presidential contender’s game plan that emerged from interviews with multiple people in his orbit.
Operating in the shadows of the emerging GOP presidential field, Walker has been laying the groundwork for a 2016 campaign. His bid would aim to capitalize on his record as a committed social conservative who has taken on Democratic interests repeatedly in a Midwestern battleground state — and won.
Staying quiet might be a smart strategy. It minimizes the public distance that Walker puts between himself and Wisconsin voters. And it allows him to avoid some of the messy scuffles that have been rattling the GOP, most notably the recent sniping between Chris Christie and Rand Paul. Speaking of which, the media has ham-handedly divided the GOP primary into two camps: those with experienced records (Christie) and those who strike the right conservative chords (Paul). Walker can check both those boxes. He turned the state of Wisconsin around economically, adding jobs and turning a deficit into a surplus, while surviving a daunting recall attempt. And he’s a brassy conservative. As Politico notes:
[D]espite that challenging playing field for Republicans, Walker turned down federal money to expand Medicaid, signed a bill requiring ultrasounds before abortions, expanded a voucher program over howls of protest from the teachers union and just signed a budget that cuts taxes by $651 million over the next two years.
Those reforms were largely successful and Walker has reaped the political dividends. He remains popular, with a plurality of voters approving of his job performance, though that number recently dipped below 50 percent. Still, it’s a remarkable conservative success story in a state that’s purple at best.
Walker will eventually have to come out of the shadows, most notably on foreign policy, which has become the topic du jour in the Republican public sphere, and with which Walker, as a governor, has very little experience. I’ll leave you with Walker’s thoughts on the NSA’s expansive surveillance programs. Is he bringing some needed moderation to the debate? Or copping out? I can’t decide: