Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is presenting himself to New Hampshire voters as a potential presidential candidate who’s been effective in office while sticking to his principles.
Walker has just wrapped up a two-day visit to the state with the first presidential primary. His events included a speech at a Rockingham County Republican dinner in Manchester, a cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee for the Belknap County GOP, and a "Politics and Pies" event in Concord, where he put those in the 2016 GOP field into two groups – those who fought partisan and policy battles but had few legislative accomplishments, and those who have won elections but weren’t known for taking on political fights. “If we were to get in, I think our strength in this argument is that we’ve done both,” he said. “We’ve taken on the big fights on issue after issue after issue, that people who support common sense conservative reforms want, and we’ve won them.”
Walker ran through a list of conservative legislation he’d signed in Wisconsin, including an overhaul of collective bargaining laws, changes to teacher tenure and legalizing concealed carry of firearms, and he noted that he'd signed the changes despite vocal opposition and an effort to recall him during his first term. “If a state like Wisconsin, where there’s more Democrats than Republicans, can not only enact that kind of policy but to do so in a way where they elected me not once, not twice, but three times in four years,” Walker said, “that gives me hope that with the right leadership in our nation’s capital, we can turn America around just like we’re turning our state around.”
While Walker’s remarks in Concord drew consistent applause, there were a few moments of disagreement as well. Former state Republican committee chair Fergus Cullen criticized Walker’s recent statements on immigration policy, which he said focused too heavily on opposing what the governor has called “amnesty” for undocumented individuals. “It makes me worried that you’re trying to pander to those on the right,” Cullen said. “We ought to be talking about visa reform, making it easier for the world’s most talented people to come to America legally and contribute to our economy.”
Walker said he respectfully disagreed with Cullen’s assessment, saying that “when it comes to legal immigration… I think the priority should be focusing on the impact on American working families and their wages, and the overall impact on the economy.”
Another audience member brought up the recent controversy around Walker’s comments on a Wisconsin law requiring women seeking abortions to first undergo ultrasounds. The governor disputed that the law requires some women to receive transvaginal ultrasounds instead of external ones – “it doesn’t designate what form [of ultrasound],” he said. (In 2014 Politifact reviewed the debate over what Wisconsin’s law requires.) “I’m pro-life,” Walker said. “If someone’s pro-choice, don’t you want an informed choice?”
Walker said he was pleased by the reaction he’d gotten in the state over the course of the two-day trip. And he said New Hampshire would be a big part of his campaign for the GOP nomination, were he to seek it. “For us, I think in the first four states, we need to place – that means first, second or third,” Walker said. “Every time I’m here in New Hampshire, I get a good vibe.”
Walker says he doesn't plan to announce his 2016 intentions until after Wisconsin completes its budget process next month.