Trump found the ring even before he got to Janesville on Tuesday — and it was all Republicans could have dreamed. In a radio interview after Walker’s endorsement, Trump seemed to bemoan the governor for cutting services instead of raising taxes.
“There’s a $2.2 billion deficit and the schools were going begging and everything was going begging because he didn’t want to raise taxes ’cause he was going to run for president,” Trump told radio host Michael Koolidge. “So instead of raising taxes, he cut back on schools, he cut back on highways, he cut back on a lot of things.”
“Walker came out today,” Trump said, to loud boos. “I wrote down notes about Wisconsin. Look, he certainly can’t endorse me after what I did to him in the race.”
Referring to a page of numbers, Trump meandered through some outdated economic data to insist that Walker was failing the state.
“Look at this, by the summer of 2015, Wisconsin was facing a $2.2 billion, two-year budget deficit," said Trump. “That’s terrible! By the way, this is out of books. This isn’t just Trump. This is out of books. Total state debt is $45 billion — maybe somebody is going to tell me that’s wrong. That’s like, $45 billion is really high. Twenty thousand fewer people in labor force than seven years ago.”
The debt number was correct but nearly pointless. Every state carries debt, but Wisconsin’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 14.6 percent. By comparison, the national debt-to-GDP ratio is closer to 100 percent.
The deficit number, on the other hand, was not just old but totally incorrect. Trump had used these same attack lines when competing against Walker in the Iowa caucuses. The implosion of Walker’s campaign there seemed to instill false confidence that these attacks would work anywhere.
Trump’s crowd did not seem to mind the errors. Outside, one man even hoisted a sign that read “CHARLIE SYKES SUCKS,” an attack on the conservative radio host whose tough interview with Trump had gone viral, and who Walker had given the Cruz endorsement news to. In conversations, plenty of Trump voters said they supported Walker but resented his meddling in the race.
Trump seemed to find firmer ground when he warned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would “kill” Wisconsin, and that both Cruz and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) supported it. (Cruz does not support it; Trump amended his attack to say that Cruz had flipped.) Meanwhile, Sykes was pronouncing Trump’s attack on Walker to be “weapons-grade stupid.”