Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to be Mitt Romney's running mate, and said Romney needs to emulate Ryan's bold policy proposals in order to win in the fall.
"I'm biased for Paul," Walker told The Hill at a Thursday breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "If you believe that the fiscal crisis facing our country is is clearly one of our top challenges, I don't know of anybody, at least in this town, who's better equipped to help you deal with that, not just because of his plan but because he understands the dynamics. I think he's got credible respect on both sides of the aisle. … Far beyond that, he's just from Wisconsin — I think there's tremendous value to Paul."
"You have to make the case as to why you need somebody new in office but that alone is not enough. You've got to have a vision, you've got to have a message, something that Paul Ryan has been talking about extensively," he said.
He mentioned Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) as other strong options to be vice president.
Walker said Wisconsin would be in play at the presidential level — but only if Romney could offer a positive agenda.
"If Governor Romney looks at Wisconsin and thinks he can win just because I have an R next to my name and he has an R next to his name, if voters see [him] as just about being a Republican that's not enough to win in Wisconsin," Walker said. "The way he wins is if voters, instead of just seeing R and thinking 'a Republican,' think 'a reformer,' think 'here's a candidate for president who has a clear, bold plan to take on both the economic and fiscal crises our country faces,' he's got a shot."
The Wisconsin governor, who beat back a recall election 10 days ago, said his victory showed voters were hungry for solutions and happy when politicians of both parties took on entrenched interests including the public-sector unions.
"I think proven executives at both the state and local level, Republicans and Democrats, are going to look at this and say 'you can make those changes, you can make the tough changes that are good not just for now but more importantly for the next generation,' and not suffer the wrath of the electorate."
He also said the election would mean the unions didn't have the "kind of influence" they'd had in the past in electoral politics.
But Walker admitted that he should have spent more time explaining his push to end collective bargaining rights for state workers before he forced his bill through, and said he would seek more dialogue in the future with his political adversaries. He also said he wouldn't push hard on a top issue for conservatives: "right to work" legislation that would make it much harder for private-sector employees to unionize.
"The right to work we're not going to do, we're not going to go through that whole battle all over again, and actually private sector unions in my state have largely been a partner in my economic development," he said.
Wisconsin has a highly competitive Senate race, and a GOP primary that is pitting former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) against former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.), big-spending businessman Eric Hovde and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R), who helped Walker push through his reforms. Walker and Neumann had a contentious gubernatorial primary two years ago, but he complimented all the candidates and said he would not endorse in the race.
"I'm not likely to get in and endorse the candidate because for me it allows me to play a little bit of referee," he said. "It's probably the most impressive primary, at least in this cycle if not the most impressive ever. You've got four legitimate candidates."
Walker told The Hill after the event that while he and Neumann had gotten testy at the end of their primary they'd buried the hatchet, and that he'd appreciated Neumann's and the other candidates' help during the recall election.