Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s biggest selling point as a presidential candidate has been his blue-collar populist appeal, and it’s something that clearly shined through on the stage at a forum of GOP presidential candidates in Manchester, New Hampshire, at Saint Anselm College on Monday night.
After Walker and moderator Jack Heath discussed how Walker’s state budget in Wisconsin went from starting, when he took office away from Democratic control, in a deficit of $3.6 billion to now having a surplus that he’s used to cut taxes and grow his state’s economy, Walker and Heath discussed Walker’s battle against special interest labor unions.
“You’ve nationally been known as someone who took on the unions,” Heath asked Walker. “Are you anti-union or anti-worker?”
“No,” Walker responded plainly. “I’m pro-worker and pro-taxpayer. We gave workers the freedom to choose. We made Wisconsin a right-to-work state. We gave workers the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a labor union or not. Many chose to keep that money that they used to use to pay for union dues to pay for their kids’ college education or other things they have for their family. We’re pro-taxpayer. Before, all the power was concentrated in Wisconsin in the hands of the elite union bosses, we instead redistributed that back to the hardworking taxpayers and the people they duly elect. So, for example, in our schools, we no longer have seniority or tenure, we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and brightest in our classrooms.”
Graduation rates and test scores are on the rise after Walker did this, he noted next.
“If it can work in a blue state like Wisconsin—if it wasn’t too late for Wisconsin, it’s not too late for America,” Walker said.
Later, in the second round, Walker pitched himself as a “new fresh face” in politics and said he’d be thrilled to run against either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Vice President Joe Biden in a general election.
“I’ve won three elections in four years, the last two of which I won after a lot of people were upset on the Democratic side of things,” Walker said. “We did it by making big, bold actions and got results because of that. In the end, I’d love to go against whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, I’m a new fresh face versus a name from the past. I’m someone from outside of Washington with a proven track record and most of all I’ve gotten things done in a blue state.”
In his 30 seconds to close his argument, Walker noted that what makes him different from other candidates, it’s that “I fought and I won.”
“I didn’t just win three elections in four years in a blue state running for governor,” Walker said. “We actually won on the big issues. We balanced our budget. We cut taxes. We defunded Planned Parenthood long before these videos came out. And we did so and went forward in a way that took on the big government special interests and put the power back in the hands of the people. If we could do it in Wisconsin—it’s not too late there, and it’s certainly not too late for America. I ask for your vote.”
Walker’s pitch to take on special interests goes to a whole new level when it comes to the issue of immigration, as he’s pledged to stand up for American workers over those special interests pushing for a massive increase in foreigners to be imported into America’s workforce from abroad. Walker, however, wasn’t asked about his position on that issue tonight—but several other candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and more who support increasing foreign immigration to the United States were asked about it. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who supports cutting legal immigration by 25 percent at least, was also asked about the issue. Walker’s position is closest to Santorum’s, a good place to be for someone running for president on the Republican side. Santorum won 11 states while trying to beat Mitt Romney last cycle. Walker is in a prime position, the more he talks about this issue of taking on the special interests and conjoining it with immigration, to rise back up in the polls after he’s seen a bit of a slip in the polls after getting sidetracked with a brief bout with frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump wasn’t present at the forum on Monday evening, nor was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee—another candidate who supports restrictions on immigration in order to help struggling Americans find work instead of trying to help foreigners.