The second-term governor becomes the 15th high-profile Republican to enter the GOP presidential contest, yet he says he occupies a unique space in the congested field.
“In the Republican field, there are some who are good fighters, but they haven’t won those battles. And there are others who’ve won elections, but haven’t consistently taken on the big fights. We showed you can do both,” Walker said in a video released by his campaign. “I am running for president to fight and win for the American people.”
Walker is highlighting his clashes with labor unions as the foundation for his candidacy. His late-afternoon announcement is set in the same convention hall where he hosted his victory party after winning a union-backed recall election.
The 47-year-old governor enacted policies weakening organized labor’s political power and became the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall election. Now, he’s working to remind Republican voters about the four-year-old fight and the recall election sparked by his efforts to weaken unions — and a series of lesser-known triumphs he says set him apart from the crowded Republican field.
“If you could accomplish half of what he’s done in Wisconsin in Washington, D.C., you would go down as one of the greatest presidents ever,” said Walker’s top political adviser, Rick Wiley.
His budget this year, which plugged a $2.2 billion shortfall when he signed it into law Sunday, requires illegal substance screenings for public benefit recipients, expands the private school voucher program, freezes tuition at the University of Wisconsin while cutting funding by $250 million and removing tenure protections from state law.
Such achievements may appeal to conservatives who hold outsized sway in Republican primaries, yet some could create challenges in a general election should Walker ultimately become the GOP’s nominee. Voter ID laws, liberal gun policies and education cuts are not necessarily popular among swing-state independents.
Walker’s decision to run brings the number of GOP candidates to 15. Two more, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, are expected to enter the race soon.