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Scott Walker "Didn't Win, But Didn't Lose" GOP Debate

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidates, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California.

It was a lively debate Wednesday night, as eleven GOP presidential candidates sparred on the main stage on CNN. Gov. Walker was among the hopefuls who answered questions and peppered each other for three hours.

Many political observers insisted the governor needed to do well in the second debate, in order to pull himself out of a slump in the polls.

The candidates batted around a long list of issues, ranging from Iran to immigration to gay marriage. Gov. Walker asserted himself early-on in the debate when he confronted front-runner Donald Trump.

Walker: “Mr. Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House, we have one right now. We don’t know who you are or where you’re going. We need someone to get the job done.”

Trump: “In Wisconsin, you’re losing $2.2 billion right now. I can do so much better than that.”

Walker: “Mr. Trump, you’re using the talking points of the Democrats. I got elected three times in four years, it is working. We balanced a budget. You took four major projects into bankruptcy.”

After the exchange with Trump, the governor seemed to focus on many of his common talking points. For instance, taking on public unions in Wisconsin. Even when Moderator Jake Tapper asked Walker why he calls raising the minimum wage a lame idea, the governor talked more broadly.

Walker:  "Our plan is based on the Ronald Reagan tax cuts of 1986. That brought about one of longest sustained periods of economic growth in our history. All we should be talking about tonight is how do we create jobs, helping people get the skills and qualifications they need to succeed. That’s the way you help people, create jobs, reform the tax code, cut taxes, put in place an education system to give people the skills and education they need. But you start on day one by repealing Obamacare. I’m the one who has an actual plan to do that on day one, I’ll send a bill up to Congress to make sure they actually enact it.”

Tapper: “Thank you governor. Dr. Carson, Gov. Walker didn’t really answer the question but I’ll let you respond. Gov. Walker called raising the federal minimum wage lame. What do you think of that?”

Walker spoke only a few more times during the debate. He touted his efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin and insisted he would only send in troops to fight the Islamic State when America’s national security is at risk.

UW-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee thinks Walker performed better during Wednesday night’s debate than he did in August.

“There’s no doubt that Gov. Walker wanted to learn from the supposed mistakes he made in the first debate. So, he gave us some zingers, he gave us some sound bites, he showed us that he could stand up to Donald Trump, he was fluent on foreign policy, so in general he asserted himself but not to the point where he was overbearing. He’s a polite guy, he doesn’t like to interrupt, he doesn’t like to talk over other people, so in a sense that becomes a disadvantage when you have a scrum like this of 11 candidates,” Lee says.

Lee says there doesn’t seem to be a clear winner, and it’s hard to predict at this point, whether the governor’s performance will pull him out of his slump in the polls. The GOP candidates will next debate in Colorado, in October. 

An extended conversation with political analyst Mordecai Lee.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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