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Politics & Government

What Challenges Would Walker Face in a Bid for the GOP Presidential Nomination?

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Now that Gov. Scott Walker has won reelection, conversation has been swirling about whether he’ll run for president.

If he does, he’ll face some challenges, according to Christopher Murray, who lectures at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center for Government, in Washington, D.C. Murray says Walker would need to decide whether to craft bold policies in Wisconsin, which would keep him in the national spotlight, or to “play it safe,” by not doing anything potentially divisive. Murray says everyone who enters the race will have to make similar decisions.

“They first need to get the nomination of the party, which tends to bring out more partisan, ideological voters, and so there’s the incentive to really take the principled stands and the non-compromising stands and move to the right, where the voters are. But then you’ve got to turn around and then go back to the middle to try to build a national majority, which Republican candidates have had a hard time doing in recent years,” Murray says.

Murray adds that some big Republican donors might be wary of backing Walker, because of voting trends in Wisconsin. The state has picked a Democrat for president in the last seven contests. Murray says donors are looking for a GOP candidate who “can start winning states that Republicans have been losing in presidential races” – something they may doubt Walker can pull off, because of the state’s voting record.

Murray says another potential hurdle for Walker could be a crowded primary, with up to a dozen candidates, many of them well-known and well-qualified. Yet Murray says Walker could have an edge over those whose political experience is in the House or U.S. Senate. Murray says it helps to be a governor, because “governors are, by virtue of their job, more productive, and they can point to tangible things they have done.”

Former Wisconsin GOP governor and presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson also is weighing in on Walker’s possible run for higher office. In an interview with WisconsinEye, Thompson echoed Murray’s comment, about the advantage governors have in presidential races. Thompson believes voters are not happy with how President Barack Obama – who came from the U.S. Senate -- is leading the country. Therefore, Thompson says voters are likely to back a candidate with executive experience.

Another of Wisconsin’s elder statesmen, former Democratic Assembly speaker Tom Loftus, joined Thompson for the WisconsinEye post-election conversation. Loftus says in 2016, he plans to back Hillary Clinton, who many assume will be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. Yet Loftus has advice for Walker, should he seek the GOP nod. Loftus says Walker should brush up on foreign policy. Loftus suggests, with the gubernatorial campaign in the rear mirror, Walker now has the “luxury” to travel overseas, for trips promoting Wisconsin interests. During those trips, Loftus says Walker also could learn more about global affairs. Loftus says it would behoove Walker to be as prepared as possible to discuss foreign policy. Loftus says that’s because one of the “tough things” about running for president is that “the first question you’re asked could be the last one,” if you can’t offer a good answer.

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