Gov. Scott Walker spoke to the University of Wisconsin College Republicans Thursday about what he views as the successes of his governor and the importance of the November gubernatorial election for the state’s future.
Attendees would not have known Walker was trailing gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers in the most recent Marquette Law School Poll from the atmosphere in the mostly full lecture hall in the George Mosse Humanities Building. Audience members quietly clapped and sang along to “Build me up Buttercup” as they waited for the governor to arrive. And Walker, cracking a joke about his bald spot, elicited laughs from the audience.
Walker said he was not in denial about the accuracy of the poll. He recalled Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., found himself down in the polls during his race against former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. Walker said that Johnson was able to surge ahead of Feingold by getting their message out to more Wisconsin voters.
“We did what was required to get the message out, and we won,” Walker said. “Not because the polls were wrong. We won because we changed the polls.”
Walker said he was talking with the crowd of young conservatives in order to fight complacency. He said if there was not a reaction to the poll results, things would “go back to the way they were.”
Before he took office, Walker said there was a $3.6 billion dollar budget deficit, an “economy in scrambles,” and a UW system that had already had its budget cut.
But now, nearly eight years after his first election, Walker said he believes Wisconsin has a bright future for its university students and an unemployment of 2.9 percent — a record low for Wisconsin. He said there are more career opportunities in the state right now then there are technically unemployed people.
“The future is yours,” Walker said to the students in attendance. “You can do anything you want.”
Walker said he views his record as governor differently across his three terms. In his first term, he said his focus was on jobs. In his second term, he said his focus was on educating and training a skilled workforce. If he were to be re-elected and serve his third term, he said he will work to retain Wisconsin’s young adults and already employed workforce.
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Walker emphasized his advertisements aimed to recruit young professionals living outside of Wisconsin, like his marketing campaign partnership with Hiring our Heroes which recruits veterans to the state. He also said he planned to retain young adults by offering students $5,000 in tax credits if they stay in the state for five years.
“My idea of the American Dream, at least as a parent, isn’t owning a house, isn’t owning your own business,” Walker said. “As a parent, my idea of the American Dream is that my children and others like them would be able to grow up, graduate from school and find meaningful careers and keep [them] relatively close to home.”
Alesha Guenther, College Republicans spokesperson, said Walker’s policies have been effective for Wisconsin and said hearing that message from young people like the College Republicans can resonate deeply.
“We really need to keep that momentum going and make sure that people are understanding that message,” Guenther said. “If we do that, I’m confident that we will see Gov. Walker in office again for another four years.”
Walker said although he didn’t expect to win the majority of voters at the universities, he wanted to compete for votes on campus.
By rolling through George Mosse Humanities building on his long campaign trail, Walker said he hoped the meeting would engage students and help win over votes at UW.
“If we pick up just a little bit on this campus and a little bit [on other UW campuses], suddenly you add up a few thousand votes,” Walker said. “That could be the difference in our election.”