By Jesse Byrnes
Walker tests his message in NH
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely 2016 Republican presidential contender, tested his message of "growth, reform and safety" in New Hampshire on Saturday with a speech at a grassroots workshop in Concord.
In his first trip to the second-in-the-nation presidential nominating state since 2012, Walker donned a sweater he said he bought for a buck from Kohl's, a big retailer founded in his home state, and cast himself as an executive willing to roll up his sleeves to streamline government and protect the homeland.
Walker kicked off his speech by touting his close geography growing up near fellow Republican Wisconsin natives Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, and Rep. Paul Ryan, recalling that he and Ryan "both flipped hamburgers as kids at McDonald's."
Walker's speech relied on familiar themes, touting reforms during his tenure in Wisconsin to argue that success should be measured "by how many people who are no longer dependent on the government."
He also suggested his two sons could take off a semester of college to campaign with him, should he run.
Fielding a question on whether he would abolish the federal income tax, Walker said the idea "sounds pretty interesting" but stopped short of giving it his endorsement, emphasizing cuts in other areas of the government.
Presented with a blue baseball cap from a pro-gun member of the audience asking about foreign policy, Walker immediately strapped the hat on his head and threw up an air rifle pose, grinning.
Walker said the biggest national security threat facing the U.S. was” radical Islamic terrorism."
"I am not proposing to engage full-scale boots on the ground, but I'm not taking that off the table," he said.
"We need a president who will do whatever it takes," Walker said. "We need to have a clear mission and we need to follow through on that mission."
Criticizing President Obama, Walker said the U.S. has "an ally in Israel, and we should start acting like it."
He also took aim at presumed Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, saying she was among those who "I think believe that you grow the economy in Washington." He also dinged her gift of reset button to Russia as secretary of State.
"Let this be a time in history where we can look back and tell future generations what we did to make America great again," he concluded.
"I think they liked what you said," Jennifer Horn, New Hampshire GOP chair, said after his speech, eyeing the applause. She announced Walker would join a slew of other potential candidates at a leadership summit in the state next month.
Other potential GOP candidates in the Granite State this weekend include former Gov. Jeb Bush (Florida), Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Gov. Rick Perry (Texas).
Walker took a shot at Bush's 2016 prospects Friday, suggesting the party avoid "a name from the past." Also on Friday, Bush pushed back on Walker's claim earlier in the week that the Wisconsin governor might be "the front-runner."
"I'm not a candidate, maybe he is, I don't know," Bush said, according to The Washington Post. "You can't be a frontrunner until you start running."
Last weekend, Walker paid a visit to the early-voting state of Iowa to brandish his economic bona fides at an agricultural summit. Walker's trip to New Hampshire included multiple meetings with state GOP leaders, former Gov. John Sununu and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. On Saturday night, Walker is slated to attend the white-tie Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C.