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Politics & Government

Three of Wisconsin's GOP Stars Continue to Shine after Last Week's Elections

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
(L-R) Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wave together during a campaign event.

President-elect Donald Trump has picked former Wisconsin Republican Party chair Reince Priebus as chief of staff. House Speaker Paul Ryan appears poised to maintain his position. And Gov. Scott Walker has just become chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

The three are close, they share an ideology, and they’ve risen to prominence at about the same time. WUWM wondered about their impact nationally, including on Trump's victory in Wisconsin. It was the first for the party in decades.

Washington Bureau Chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert, says Priebus, Ryan and Walker all played some role in Trump's win here:

"Certainly, Reince Priebus played a role, because he directed resources to the state. It's complicated in Ryan's case, because his rift with Trump, and a lot of it was Trump attacking Ryan. At the end, Ryan had disinvited Trump to a local event after the tape, the Access Hollywood tape, broke, and had said he wouldn't campaign with him, so in Ryan's case that rift with Trump wasn't necessarily a plus for Trump in Wisconsin, given Ryan's popularity, and we saw Trump really underperform in southeastern Wisconsin where Ryan's district is, so it's sort of a complicated mix in Ryan's case.

"I mean Walker, I think the one area where you could say Walker was helpful was he's been through these really hard-fought elections and so there is a little bit of a ground game that Republicans have in Wisconsin, they know how to do this, and Walker contributes to that, so that kind of infrastructure was probably somewhat helpful to Trump in the end, even though Walker also had a complicated relationship with Trump, where Trump attacked him in the primaries and that probably for a while held down Trump's numbers among Wisconsin Republicans. Walker eventually certainly was a supporter of Trump's, but he wasn't a huge cheerleader of Trump's."

We also asked for the opinion of Washington Post Chief Correspondent Dan Balz. He's been watching the ascendency of Priebus, Ryan and Walker, and first wrote about it around six years ago.

"It just struck me that it was very unusual that you would have three people from the same state who were contemporaries and friends and allies in Wisconsin. I wrote about it at the time and just said, 'you know, here are these three cheeseheads -- keep your eye on them,' because we've rarely had a situation in which you've had three people in such positions that they would have potential influence on a lot of things."

Balz says Priebus, Ryan and Walker continue to hold powerful positions; however, they've advanced in a manner they might not have predicted years ago:

"I think the irony is one would not have expected that Reince Priebus would be the first one of them to be in the White House with a position. Certainly Scott Walker tried and was unable to stop Donald Trump, and a lot of people thought that Paul Ryan might run in 2016 but he didn't. But they have continued to progress. I mean, Scott Walker, as you know, has weathered some very tough storms in Wisconsin. Paul Ryan has ascended to the speakership. Now Reince Priebus will go from the Republican National Committee to the most significant staff position in the White House, and one of the most powerful people in the government."

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