Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker gives a thumbs up as he speaks at his campaign party Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in West Allis, Wis. Walker defeated Democratic gubernatorial challenger Mary Burke. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gives a thumbs up as he speaks at a campaign party last year in West Allis, Wis. (Morry Gash/Associated Press)

If conservatives win the hearts of their base by taking incoming fire from the mainstream media, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is off to a fine start. The New York Times is already labeling him small-minded and exclusionary:

Mr. Walker, a small-town minister’s son who met his wife, a Milwaukee native, at a Wisconsin barbecue joint, is a product of one of the most politically and racially polarized regions of the country, metropolitan Milwaukee. He has succeeded by confronting his adversaries and by generating soaring levels of support from his fellow Republicans in a state they have failed to carry in a presidential race for more than three decades. The party’s way forward, by Mr. Walker’s lights, lies in demonstrating toughness in the face of intense opposition from the left and mobilizing those who are already inclined to support conservatism.

Get it? He’s from a “racially polarized” region so that must mean . . . It’s an unsubtle way of calling him racially divisive without bothering to come up with any facts. But just so you don’t miss the insinuation, the Times finds a conservative writer, Matt K. Lewis, willing to decry his approach as lending itself to “tribalism” and to say it “doubles down on turning out disaffected white men.” Get it? And if that wasn’t obnoxious enough, the Times posits that Walker is really bent on winning the states “filled with the sort of working-class white voters he reflects.”

I bet you didn’t know Walker was so racially divisive. Well, neither did he or the voters who supported him in three elections. It’s odd how someone so tribalistic supported a school choice plan that Hispanics for School Choice applauded or extolled the principle that “[e]very child, regardless of where they live or what their parents do for a living deserves a chance to have a great education at the public school, charter school, choice school, virtual school, or home school environment right for them . . . and expanded the choice program for other families across the state.” He did a boffo job of concealing his exclusionary instincts by expanding state health care for the poor and a variety of worker training programs.

Even on immigration, there is no evidence that Walker has hopped into bed with the anti-immigrant types. After all the hullabaloo about his position on immigration, it turns out that he supports a pathway to legalization (but not citizenship), which is exactly the route Jeb Bush has proposed.

The Times is not even original. Last year the pre-collapse New Republic ran a story titled “The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker.” That piece, too, seemed to focus on accusing Milwaukee of racial hostility and division rather than anything Walker has said or done. (As for voter ID laws, Bush favors them, too — as do a large majority of Americans.)

What is true is that Wisconsin does not have many minority voters. (Only 6 percent of the electorate was African American in 2014.) While Bush came from a more diverse state and has a record of attracting minority voters, Walker will need to make certain that his message resonates outside the core GOP base. That is a far cry, however, from painting him as a candidate who isn’t interested in non-white voters.

Apparently the left, even without a minority candidate of its own, has the race card ready to be played if Walker gets the nomination. (What will it do if Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio gets the nod?) The only missing elements here are facts and fairness, any scintilla of evidence that Walker aims to be the anti-minority, hate-poor-people caricature the left likes to concoct for all Republicans. Not only should Walker and his team be pushing back against these attacks, but he also should make it clear with a robust agenda applicable to all Americans and with anti-poverty proposals akin to those offered by fellow Wisconsinite Rep. Paul Ryan. His message should extol the benefits of conservative policies for all Americans, but especially those at the bottom rungs of the ladder.

Then again, the surest way into the hearts of Republicans is to be smeared gratuitously by the Times and the rest of the liberal media. He can wear that as a badge of honor — and then prove how wrong they are.