Gov. Scott Walker spent the weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference dancing around the idea of running for president in 2016. Walker told Politico in an interview Friday he was not ruling out a run for president. Walker also declined to commit to serving a full second term if re-elected as governor, pointing out that he left the position of Milwaukee County Executive while serving his term to become governor. The question is: Does this mean anything for Wisconsinites?
Before I answer, I should point out Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday, “I love being governor. I’m not running for any other job.”
Nevertheless, I don’t think it is a stretch to say Walker, if provided the opportunity, would happily run for president. Not a bad thing by any means – I have my issues with Walker, but when he talked about the future of the Republican Party, he made several good points. For example, he discussed the importance of not trying to win with a “set formula” of flipping on a couple issues and running a couple minority candidates.
Ultimately, I don’t think Walker’s future aspirations are going to affect Wisconsin in the short-term. Right now, Walker is much more focused on solidifying himself as the clear choice for governor in 2014 than on any potential run at president in 2016. Trying to meet his promise to create 250,000 jobs won’t leave him much time for worrying about a presidential run.
Walker has become something of a national conservative hero during the last couple of years, with the passing of his budget reform bill in 2010 and winning the recall election last summer. With all of that, it makes sense for him to aspire to greater heights within his own party. From a purely Wisconsin policy perspective, he has seemed less interested in gaining conservative acumen as of late and more interested in appealing to the state’s citizens as a whole.
For example, while Walker has said he remains personally opposed to gay marriage – and certainly isn’t interested in changing the 2006 state amendment banning gay marriage – he has said he is more interested in focusing on economic issues. He told Politico, “I think most people in college might tell you, ‘Yeah, I don’t care what somebody does in that regard but what I care about is whether I’m going to have a job in a couple of years when I graduate.’”
None of this should come as much of a surprise. Both Walker’s political aspirations and his current commitment to economic success within the state are trends that have been noted throughout Walker’s time as governor. So, most of the speculation about Walker’s presidential aspirations is just a news outlet looking for an angle on a major speaker at CPAC.
Yes, Walker would probably like to be president one day. But no, I don’t think he will change how he is currently approaching policy in Wisconsin. The big question in Wisconsin isn’t whether or not Walker will run for president in 2016, but whether the Democrats will find anyone to prevent him from being elected governor again in 2014. And I promise that is where Walker is currently focused as well.
John Waters (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in journalism.