Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will join the crowded field of GOP presidential candidates Monday. Politico reports that since the 1990s, Walker’s opponents – those he defeated – say Walker shouldn’t be underestimated.
Walker has appeared on a ballot some 14 times and he only lost twice.
“Yet for all the lingering enmity, as Walker prepares to announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, his rivals also grudgingly respect him as a rare and exceptionally canny politician who’s constantly underestimated and always outperforms expectations,” according to Politico.
His former opponents say he reads crowds well and is a sneaky yet smart campaigner.
David Reimer lost to Walker in the 2004 Milwaukee County executive race. Reimer told Politico he placed a paper in front of Walker during a debate calling for Walker to sign it and vow a four-year term. Reimer had sensed Walker planed to run for higher office. Walker didn’t sign it, but didn’t tear it up either – he simply ignored it.
“He just let it sit in front of him. He didn’t get it back to me. He didn’t rip it up. He didn’t turn it into a paper airplane … he ignored it,” Riemer recalled. “He understood very well, one of the key lessons in political life is they can’t print what you don’t say.”
Following the debate, Walker sent out a press release dismissing his rival’s pledge. Walker then ran two years later for the 2006 Republican primary for governor.
“The 47-year-old Republican often points to the fact that he’s been on the ballot just about every two years since 1990 — including three victorious races for governor — as proof that he’s battle-tested and prepared to grind out yet another long campaign,” notes Politico.
Mary Burke – a recent opponent of Walker’s – didn’t comment on Walker to Politico, but a senior aide did, saying Walker’s recent struggles this year have been “bigger and more noticeable” than they were in the 2014 election.
The aide advised, “I think there is a risk in underestimating him.”
A senior Democratic advisor during one of Walkers statewide campaigns echoed the aide – both speaking under anonymity to Politico.
“He’s got antennas,” stated the adviser. “He’s the real deal. As time goes on, you’ll get more of that vibe as you cover him. He can come across as a little arrogant, obviously. But with real people out there, he’s really, really good. He’s just in touch with what they’re looking for.”
Lena Taylor – who lost to Walker in 2008 – said before debates he was always polite as others say he is about his family, and sports – specifically the Packers and Brewers. “He’s personable,” said Taylor, who is now a Democratic state senator.
“He’s comfortable with the person on the farm. He’s comfortable with the person in the boardroom.”
Politico reports Taylor refers to Walker as “polarizing” and “an extremist” – also saying he uses the fact he is a son of a Baptist preacher to wiggle out of sticky situations.
“He is used to speaking and speaking publicly, so don’t expect him to be someone, who even when it’s not going well, to get off-kilter,” she stated. “He stumbles, we all do. But he’s a guy who’s going to be more even-toned. Use that to your advantage, Mrs. Clinton.”
Rep. Gwen Moore – a Democrat that has gotten the best of Walker – also gave advise on how Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, can defeat Walker.
“Moore beat Walker handily in a 1990 state Assembly race, the governor’s first-ever bid for elected office,” Politico reported. “He later moved to a more conservative district to relaunch his political career.”
Moore described Walker as smooth and talented, but also ruthless and slippery.
“As a matter of fact, before I met him, some of the Republicans that I had made friends as a freshman shared with me that this man stands in front of a mirror for hours and practices,” she stated.
Moore said the 2016 Democratic nominee should force Walker into making uncomfortable and insensitive comments.
“He’s been very successful, but he’s going to have a hard time beating a woman that’s tough,” Moore stated. “She needs to be prepared for someone who doesn’t care who he maims, cripples or kills for his ambition.”
Mary Jo Baas ran against Walker, but lost.
“Today, Baas — whose surname was Paque at the time of the special election — says she’s glad she didn’t block Walker’s path,” noted Politico.
“I think when he ran for Legislature and county executive and governor and now president, people have continually underestimated him,” Baas said. “If I had known how good he was, I wouldn’t have run. When he talked to a group of people, people felt like he was one of them. He knew what connected, what resonated.”
“I could summarize my advice for people running against him,” she told Politico with a laugh. “Don’t.”