Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Walker Plans Run for Third Term

His listening tour is all about making him a viable candidate in 2018.

By - Jan 25th, 2016 10:28 am
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Scott Walker

Scott Walker

What Republican Gov. Scott Walker said early in his sixth State of the State speech: “The Wisconsin Comeback is real.”

And what he didn’t say: “And I want to be the Comeback Kid. My campaign for a third term starts today.”

Actually, Walker declared his plan to seek – and win – a third term in 2018 in a send-money plea to contributors last Monday, one day before his State of the State address. Walker’s appeals for cash went to donors across the nation – a mailing list built up over three winning campaigns for governor in five years.

In that national appeal, Walker said: “Our re-election campaign may seem like a long way off but the other side is already gearing up for a bruising battle. Will you please help us balance the books on our presidential campaign so that we can prepare for the next battle?…We need your help again now so we can start fresh with the next campaign.”

And about that last campaign, the one for President? Was there any reference to Walker’s expensive and fizzled national campaign in his annual report to Wisconsin last week? No.

Was that an oversight? No. When pollsters for September’s Marquette University Law Poll asked whether respondents “wished [Walker] had not run” for President, 60 percent agreed. Pair that number with Walker’s approval rating – 38 percent – in the November Marquette Law School poll, and you know why his favorite movie may be the 1980 not-so-classic The  Comeback Kid.

The first moments of the governor’s State of the State speech gave you a quick summary of the sign posts – the economy, education and jobs – on his Comeback Road:

“There are more people working in Wisconsin than at nearly any other point in our history; state finances are stable; our school students are doing well overall; college tuition is frozen, and property and income taxes are down from 2010.

“…When I was running for re-election just over a year ago, I said we would ensure everyone who wanted a job could find a job. So, what kind of progress have we made in the past year? Well, the most recent unemployment rate in our state is the lowest it has been since March of 2001.”

One other way to reverse an upside-down approval rating is to listen, Walker added. He calls it the 2020 Vision Project. Remind me: When is the next presidential election?

The governor said the Vision Project – his “leave the light on for me” tour – will work this way: “We are going to visit every part of the state to hold listening sessions throughout 2016…We plan on coming to a community near you soon… This is personal for me, as I think the best way to plan for the future is to hear from people all over the state. We need a shared vision for the future. That is why I want to hear from you.”

In his send-cash-now plea, Walker twice mentioned his Presidential campaign, which so drained his state campaign account that it had only $20,257 in cash on Jan. 1. That was 0.3 percent of the $6.4 million in donations the state account received in all of 2015, according to a Government Accountability Board disclosure report.

Over his third Leinenkugels, one Democrat who has been working in and around the Capitol for more than 30 years offered this theory: Walker doesn’t like having a record low approval rating, but sees a Comeback Kid opportunity in it. If he slowly claws back momentum this year and next with “bold” reforms like saving up to $40 million by self-insuring state workers’ health-care costs, he could put that savings into education. Then, he wins an ugly, expensive third term in November 2018 by getting just one more vote than the Democrats’ candidate for governor.

That scenario brings a fresh-from-victory Walker to January 2019, when Republicans nationally may be looking for candidates to oppose Democratic President Hillary Clinton in 2020. Wouldn’t they have to seriously look at Wisconsin’s Comeback Kid, wiser after learning from his 2015 campaign-trail mistakes?

How serious is Walker about seeking a third term? In a recent WisconsinEye interview, he doubted if he would ever “seek a fourth term – like Tommy Thompson did.”

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at

18 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Walker Plans Run for Third Term”

  1. Vincent Hanna says:

    At this point, if you’re Walker, you probably feel like you could be governor-for-life considering the state of the opposition party.

  2. Robb says:

    The moron is doing what he does best. Running for office. As far as presidential aspirations, he offered all he had in the tank in this go around. Empty is empty. You can’t fix stupid.

  3. AG says:

    Fear not, lefty’s! Many people, like myself, who voted for Walker the first two times have become less supportive of him as he continues to move further and further to the right by changing his stances and pandering to financial backers. They don’t need to vote for his opponent, they just need to stay home on voting day. Even if it’s only 5-10% of his support, that opens the door for a Democrat Governor.

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    I suppose that’s possible AG, and yes he is pretty unpopular right now, but it’s hard to have any faith in the Democrats in this state (in terms of putting forth an electable candidate and running an effective campaign against an incumbent, even an unpopular one).

  5. Robb says:

    AG, it’s not as much as I’m a ‘lefty’ as much as I am Anti-Walker. Put up a decent Republican and I wouldn’t have nearly as much a problem with him/her.

    It’s also a broken system when we pay a guy a salary to lobby for his job for the next three years. It’d be a bonus for every employee in the state if they could do that. We need a real revolution to clean up this mess.

  6. SteveM says:

    AG, I will never believe that there is anyone of your ilk that will switch her/his vote. None of his supporters will admit to having made a mistake. None. They still proudly sport their bumper stickers and have even snapped up those plagiarized lapel pins! You have and will continue to vote for him despite the damage he has done to our state and your own personal welfare. He could steal your home, kill your dog, and enslave your children (with college debt) and your tribe will support him.

  7. Vincent Hanna says:

    To paraphrase a brilliant man, he could shoot someone on the steps of the Capitol building and people would still vote for him.

  8. Ryan N says:

    It depends on who the Democats eventually put up against him. They have a chance to win unless they go with a nutcase like Lena Taylor or someone who has no business being Governor like Burke.

  9. AG says:

    SteveM, those are some pretty strong assumptions. Especially so considering you do not know what my “ilk” is.

  10. AG says:

    Vincent and Ryan, I agree that the outcome will depend on who they put up. My position was more that regardless of who it is, I think they’ve got a better chance now than they did in the last election (and the recall election). If a Lena Taylor or someone along those lines is his opponent then I’m afraid I’d feel compelled to prove SteveM’s prediction true.

  11. Ryan N says:

    Put up someone like Abele, Kathleen Vinehout, Julie Lassa, Jon Erpenbach. Kind and Barca could possibly win but they don’t have any charisma at all which will hurt.

    Those people could win, don’t put up someone like a Lena Taylor, Tim Carpenter or Chris Larsen or Mary Burke. I could vote against Walker with the first couple of options, would never vote against him for the clown car brigade at the bottom.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    I wouldn’t put it past Wis Dems to run someone like Brett Hulsey.

  13. SteveM says:

    AG, just keep typing and my assertion will just prove more truthful. You should have posted all of those conditions prior to your first post. Classic Walker-bot. How do you pronounce this word? “Time.”

  14. tomw says:

    The real problem with the governor’s speech and with Barca’s response:
    No vision – living in today is nice but it’s a great way to get run over if you’re sitting on a railroad track or in the middle of a highway. The vision of business leaders is always to change, always to do something better – vision is what enables our children to have a chance at the next job, pass the next test, create a new way of growing corn. Whatever happened to that is what we should be asking government leaders.
    Who wrote this – if Scottie wrote it it’s scary but if his aides wrote it it’s even scarier because that means he’s surrounded by people whose idea of progress and programs are to please those who live in yesterday and not seek to move this state forward, their vision is only as far ahead as their next paycheck; and if Barca’s and the democrats only vision is some esoteric middle class redevelopment well good luck with that. Dems you’ve lost the last three time you challenged Scottie it’s time to quite sniping and start supposing – suppose we build a high speed rail how many jobs will that create do you suppose(the Journal’s last story on local manufacturing showed a company surviving by creating products for a high speed rail system), suppose we change energy production(Marshall County Kansas is now getting it’s first wind farm supplied by a manufacturer from Colorado, couldn’t that be Wisconsin products), suppose we support sustainable agriculture, suppose suppose suppose – not snipe, snipe and then whine. Give em a reason to support you, not a reason to oppose “them”.
    What about the new economy where welding is a skill used to build the infrastructure for things such as new energy sources and technical skills which create the sources, these are what our educational system should be enhancing at every level; how can you highlight nursing aides which aren’t supported by living wages nor by a health care system which enriches professionals and exploits para’s like nurses’ aides. What’s needed is a system which allows all to have the needed health care and those who provide to make a decent living.
    How does agriculture fit into the picture – in this state whose economy is built in large part on agriculture and its ancillary supporting infrastructure what is the government doing to support it
    How does energy production and new sources fit into the picture in a world of climate change and challenges to traditional energy production what are we doing to address that and what is state government doing to support that
    And change ought to be embraced when it celebrates the past, builds on it, and then creates a new future. Go ask the mega church builders – they convince people just that. It’s not their rhetoric or their message but their methods – assure people that the new is Ok because it will support you – there’s a program, group for everybody and they’ll make you feel good. And fairness – whatever happened to justice and playing fair? Remember Ronnie Rayguns – follow the rules, work hard, be rewarded – well that’s not what the big boys want to hear or see but maybe the folks down the street do?

  15. M says:

    Walker does have some folksy charm (if you ignore his actual words). He’s also reclaimed his twangy WisCONsin accent after working with coaches to drum it out during the WH run.

    Ryan, some you mention could hold promise. But Abele has no charisma–though he can win locally by spending gazillions and because people appreciate his dad’s money he’s thrown around. That may have little impact outstate and he would have to shake hands, a tough task for for a socially awkward pol.

  16. Jerry says:

    With Walker it is all bluster and bluff when he says that he wants to meet with the people. His” leave the light on for me tour” is by invitation only. So it will be the same old Walker going behind closed factories out of the view of the public and with closed doors so that he doesn’t have to hear what the typical Wisconsinites wants to say to him. This is nothing more than rhetoric to try and fool the voters one more time. He will continue to lie about tax cuts and jobs and the economy. But voters have had 5 years of Walker’s words and 5 years of he and his Republican legislators not moving the state forward but rather moving the economy, environment and education backward and leaving the people of Wisconsin no better off than they were before he took over!

  17. Jackson Scwatt says:

    SteveM, your statements are not well thought out in my opinion. Not everyone who voted for Scott Walker was or is a “supporter”. As is true with most elections, many of us end up voting for what we consider the “lesser of two evils” and support no one in particular from among the candidates. For my part, I’d had enough of Jim Doyle and his cronies, and would not vote for some bland bureaucrat type who represented the status quo at that juncture.

    If I sit the next one out or do a write-in, as I have sometimes in the past, it will be because there is no one on the ballot whom I think deserves my vote. The Democratic Party has not put forward a candidate in recent memory who gave us much to support,

  18. A Bus Driver says:

    The people of Wisconsin would do well to kick Scooter out of Madison & make him have to get a REAL job.

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