Presidential races

Walker makes case for 2016 White House bid

Greg Nash

NOVI, Mich. — Scott Walker boasted about the conservative reforms he’s enacted as Wisconsin’s governor to a crowd of Republicans in Michigan on Monday night, laying the groundwork for what will likely be the core argument he takes to GOP primary voters in his bid for the party’s nomination later this year.

In a fiery keynote address to about 1,000 local activists and party officials at the Oakland County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner in suburban Detroit, Walker seemed to thrill the crowd, as he ticked through his catalogue of accomplishments.

{mosads}Walker said he cut taxes in Wisconsin by $2 billion, turned a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a half-billion dollar surplus, fully funded the state’s pension system and reduced unemployment from 9.2 percent to 4.6 percent, while achieving one of the highest labor participation rates in the country at 68 percent.

“There’s hope,” Walker said. “As challenging as things are in this country and our nation’s capital … there’s hope because we’ve seen the transformation that’s happened in the states under common-sense Republican leadership. Imagine what could happen if we put common-sense Republican leadership in Washington and in the White House.”

Walker returned frequently to two of his most controversial achievements — his move in 2011 to strip public-sector unions of their bargaining rights, which sparked massive protests and provoked a recall election, and more recently, his signing of the so-called right-to-work legislation that bans the requirement that private-sector workers pay labor dues.

“Because of those reforms, because we stood up for those actions … we collectively went from all-Democratic control to all-Republican control,” Walker said. “We transformed everything.”

The Wisconsin governor also sought to highlight initiatives he’s championed that he says have been overlooked because of the high-profile clashes with the unions.

“We did reforms on regulations, reforms on lawsuit abuse, we defunded Planned Parenthood and put it back in the hands of public health employees,” Walker said.

“We signed concealed carry so families can protect themselves and their families,” he continued. “In our state, if you want to vote, it’s easy to vote but hard to cheat because there’s a requirement you need a photo ID.”

On national security, Walker went into full attack mode against President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He said he was “disturbed” that Clinton spent four years as Obama’s closest adviser on foreign policy matters.

“We need a president for this country who will look the American people in the eye and have the courage to tell them the truth,” Walker boomed. “It could be a day, a week, a month or a year, but we know it’s not a question of if there will be another attempt on American soil, it’s question of when there will be another attempt on American soil … and I’d rather take the fight to them than let them bring the fight to us.”

Walker and Obama have openly warred on national security. The president has bristled at Walker’s criticism, saying Walker needs to “bone-up on foreign policy.” On Monday night, Walker took shot after shot at Obama.

“Now more than ever America needs a commander in chief that will stand up and declare radical Islam is a threat to us all,” he said to a standing ovation. “We need a president who identified for once and for all that Israel is an ally and actually starts acting like it.”

Walker is headed to Israel for a five-day trip beginning on Sunday.

The speech in Novi was Walker’s second stop of the day, coming on the heels of a lunchtime address he gave the Ingham County GOP in Lansing.

Walker rocketed to the top of the GOP field after a well-received speech in Iowa in February, but he’s seen his support erode some in recent weeks, as new contenders have entered the field.

Still, the Wisconsin governor remains in the top tier of candidates and currently sits in second place, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leads the pack with 15 percent support nationally, followed by Walker at 12 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) at 11.8 percent, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) at 9.3 percent, Ted Cruz at 9 percent and Mike Huckabee at 8.3 percent.

Cruz, Paul and Rubio have officially declared their candidacies, while Huckabee is expected to enter the field on Tuesday from his home town of Hope, Ark. Walker and Bush are expected to jump in sometime this summer.

Walker wasn’t the only GOP contender courting Michigan voters on Monday.

Ben Carson launched his bid for the White House from his hometown of Detroit in the morning, while Paul picked up the endorsement of Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids.

Tags Hillary Clinton Justin Amash Marco Rubio Rand Paul Ted Cruz

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