As Scott Walker’s lieutenant governor, Kleefisch also weathered Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin. And that victory won kudos from Palin, who sent a congratulatory message highlighting Kleefisch’s efforts.
“A special congratulations to Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, who overcame much personal adversity, stood by her governor, and embraced her Tea Party roots,” Palin said.
At 36, Kleefisch is a former television reporter, the wife of a state assemblyman, the mother of two daughters and a cancer survivor.
In August 2010, while she was running for office, Kleefisch was diagnosed with colon cancer. She had the tumor removed just 12 days before she won her primary. After her win in November 2010, she elected to have chemotherapy as a precaution, and has said she is cancer-free.
Conservative women across the country will be hearing more from Kleefisch, says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports candidates who oppose abortion rights.
“She really is an outgrowth of the tea party, evangelical Christians and the modern conservative movement that is producing a lot of females,” Dannenfelser told me in an interview Wednesday. “I expect great things from her. She’s a great speaker and fundraiser.”
The Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Kleefisch in the recall election for her pro-life advocacy. They cited the Walker-Kleefisch administration’s successes in ending “the use of taxpayer dollars to perform and teach abortions at Wisconsin state universities and the prohibition of Wisconsin’s health insurance exchange from covering elective abortion.”
And like another conservative leader, Mike Huckabee, Kleefisch is media savvy. Prior to his tenure as Arkansas governor, Huckabee was a Southern Baptist minister who started 24-hour television stations that produced documentaries and positive programming.
It worked to his advantage — and will to hers, too, Huckabee told me: “Being in broadcasting helps you to understand how to frame your message in short and punchy time frames of 10, 30 or 60 seconds. It gives you an understanding of how to properly position and use a microphone, and to use your voice to project and emphasize what you communicate. You also understand working under deadline and the very real sense of timing.”
Kleefisch showed that soon after the polls closed in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, when she immediately shifted the focus to Mitt Romney.
“If Wisconsin continues to be red tonight, it bodes very well for our Republican nominee,” Kleefisch told Sean Hannity. “I’m very excited about our chances in November if we have a good night tonight.”
She also targeted Barack Obama and his failure to appear in the state for Walker’s Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett. “I think the White House sees what the rest of Wisconsin sees, and that is that our reforms are working.’’
Some pundits have already said Kleefisch could succeed Walker as governor of Wisconsin.
“She has a long political life ahead of her if she wants it,” Dannenfelser says.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.