Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that it is unnecessary for Republicans to moderate their views in order to win over wary voters and suggested that he would run as a conservative should he seek the GOP presidential nomination.
“To win the center, you don’t have to go to the center, you have to lead,” Walker said in a telephone town hall meeting with activists.
Walker’s comments, part of a fundraising event for Tea Party Patriots, came days after he spent the weekend in New Hampshire, where he and one of his leading 2016 rivals, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, competed for positioning in the early stage of the race.
In the Granite State and elsewhere, Walker has been angling to be seen as the right’s favorite contender and casting himself as a fresh face with a populist streak, in contrast to Bush, the son and brother of former presidents who has broken with the GOP’s conservative wing on education and immigration.
Still, Walker faced some challenges Monday about his own ideology, including the notion that he has flipped from his previous positions on several fronts in order to appear more conservative.
During the question period on the call following his opening statement, Walker was asked by Jenny Beth Martin, the president of Tea Party Patriots, a national conservative grass-roots organization, why he once opposed a Wisconsin effort mandating ethanol should be used in midgrade gasoline but said in Iowa recently that he would “go forward on continuing the [federal] Renewable Fuel Standard.”
“From our standpoint, our position’s consistent,” Walker responded. “We’ve talked about not wanting a mandate.” He said while he would like to see the federal standard phased out, he is agreeable to not abolishing it immediately.
Walker began his remarks Monday by recalling the 2012 recall election in his state, which he won and came a year after he championed controversial changes to Wisconsin’s labor laws, including an end to collective-bargaining powers for some public employees.
“Literally, literally about 100,000 protesters,” Walked said of the scene at the Wisconsin state capitol in early 2011. “People from all across the country… NEA, AFSCME, all the big government unions bosses were in from Washington.”
As he has done in speeches all year, Walker went on to thank conservatives for their prayers and support during his 2012 run and his 2014 reelection campaign. “In the end, we were not intimidated,” he said. “We stood up to death threats.”
Later, Walker went through bullet points from his developing stump speech, from complaints about President Obama’s handling of the Islamic State to broad worries about Iran’s nuclear threat and the Obama administration’s ongoing negotiations. And he took some more questions, telling “Nancy” that he was “surprised there isn’t a little more discussion” about the U.S. debt limit, and telling “Janet” that he disagreed with Obama’s unilateral policy moves on immigration.
At the end of the session, when asked to share some closing thoughts, Walker was brief. He directed listeners to the Web site for his advocacy group, OurAmericanRevival.com, and clicked off.
A moment later, a Tea Party Patriots associate began soliciting donations, which was the main reason for the call, even if Walker was the draw.