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Walker, Trump Put the Past Behind in Preps for Wisconsin Fundraiser

Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
Gov. Walker and President Trump will raise money together next week

Gov. Walker is bringing in a heavy hitter to help him raise campaign money – President Trump. He’s scheduled to host an event Tuesday for the governor in southeastern Wisconsin.

Walker says he’s thrilled the president is coming here, even though Trump remains embroiled in a probe into possible ties with Russia. And, even though the two leaders have a rocky history.

Trump contributed $10,000 to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign in 2014. But a year later, when both men were running for president, the kid gloves came off. In an interview with Bloomberg Politics, Trump criticized Walker over his handling of state finances.

“Wisconsin’s got tremendous problems, the debt and the difficult problems going on in Wisconsin that a lot of people don’t understand or know about, tremendous borrowings,” Trump said.

Walker’s candidacy for president lasted only two months. When he dropped out of the race, he slammed Trump and called for a thinning of the 17-member field.

“So that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front runner. This is fundamental to the future of the party and more importantly, to the future of our country,” Walker said.

Walker then endorsed Ted Cruz, who ended up winning Wisconsin’s GOP primary. Yet, by the time the Republican National Convention rolled around, Walker was singing a different tune. He backed Trump in a rousing speech on the floor.

“There’s an old saying in politics, you do whatever it takes," says UW-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee. He believes it’s important for Walker to leave his uneasy history with Trump behind, especially if the governor intends to run for a third term.

“In other words, if right now President Trump is popular with the Republican base and if right now, President Trump can really help raise substantial amounts of money at a fundraiser, then as a politician you go for it,” Lee says.

Wisconsin was one of three states to tip the scales to Trump in the November election. So, Lee says Walker is taking the odds.

“I think we have to assume that he has a very strong hand and being able to tie himself to a president who is loved by a certain base of the population is politically beneficial,” Lee says.

One political observer calls Walker’s move - a savvy one. Amber Wichowsky, a political scientist at Marquette University, notes the latest Marquette Law School Poll that shows nine out of ten Republicans in Wisconsin approving of Trump’s performance.

“So, I don’t think having Trump at Walker’s event is going to turn off the Republican base, even though Trump did not win the state’s primary, even though we had a vocal ‘never Trump’ contingent, Republicans came home in November,” she says.

Yet, Wichowsky says Walker could suffer consequences down the line by tying himself closely to Trump. She says while the president may be popular among the Wisconsin GOP, his national ranking has sunk to 37 percent.

“And, Democrats are certainly going to try to exploit Trump’s weaknesses, his mistakes, his missteps and rally their base by linking Walker to an unpopular president,” Wichowsky says.

So far, no high profile Democrats have announced a bid against Walker in 2018. He is expected to make his candidacy official this summer.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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