Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Walker Sells Himself at GOP Convention

Uses convention to renew national profile, but Ryan a more likely choice for president in 2020.

By - Jul 25th, 2016 09:57 am
Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Of the six Wisconsin officials who addressed the Republican National Convention last week, Gov. Scott Walker had the best Cleveland confab.

Wisconsin’s governor bounced from delegation to delegation – Iowa, South Carolina, Oklahoma, etc. – making new friends, telling them why Hillary Clinton must not be elected president, and reminding all why he ran for President last year: “Didn’t back down” in 2011 and 2012 fights with union bosses. Highest number of Wisconsinites working in decades. Unemployment rate cut in half since first election in 2010. Budget balanced. Only governor in U.S. history to survive a recall.

Walker’s not-so-subtle message: Whether Donald Trump wins or loses, you haven’t heard the last of me. I’ve got plenty of time; I’ll only be 53 years old when we elect the next president. And, if I run in 20 years, I’ll still be younger than Trump (age 70) and Clinton (68).

Unlike Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Walker opted for party loyalty. Walker swallowed hard and, in his convention speech, endorsed Trump, who had dismissed Walker with an insult after the governor quit the race for President.

“I’m a big boy,” Walker explained the day after his speech.

Trump’s choice of a fellow Midwest governor, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, as his vice presidential candidate also helped drag Walker across the Trump-for-President finish line.

Walker gave a strong speech, although not in prime time. He had delegates join him in a well-timed punch line – “America deserves better” – 11 times, and only twice reminded him that he “didn’t back down” as governor.

Question: Was the “America deserves better” phrase a double entendre? Yes, the nation deserves better then a President Clinton, and – maybe – also a better Republican candidate than Trump?

Walker also candidly discussed his own approval rating – 38 percent – back home, according to the latest Marquette University Law School Poll. “My approval rating dropped with apparent frustration of our presidential run.”

So, if Walker won a third term in 2018, would he resist the temptation to run for president in 2020 (should Clinton win)? If re-elected, Walker said it would be his “full” intent to serve as governor until that term ended in 2022.

In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, former GOP four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson offered a reality check on Walker’s ambitions.

Thompson said, with a 38 percent approval rating, it would be tough for Walker to win a third term. And, Thompson predicted, another Wisconsinite – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan – will be the GOP presidential nominee in 2020, if Trump loses.

Ryan, for his part, referred to Trump twice in a speech to convention delegates that was more of a history/civics lesson than pep rally. Professor Ryan would have rather been sweating through his daily killer exercise routine – P90X, yoga, crossfit, cycling – than praising a presidential candidate who cares more about himself than Ryan’s beloved Republican Party.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, trailing Democrat and former Sen. Russ Feingold, changed his mind and came to Cleveland. In a five-minute speech, Johnson blasted Feingold for voting against the Patriot Act after 9/11 attacks and said Americans now “live in fear” because of the failures of President Obama and ex-secretary of state Clinton.

Johnson’s campaign may get a TV ad out of the speech.

Although he runs as a Democrat, a uniformed Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke stood at attention when he told GOP delegates, “Blue lives matter.” Accusing some leaders of the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements of “anarchy,” Clarke appeared to be hinting to a President Trump that he’d like a Washington job.

The fifth Wisconsin Republican to address the convention was 7th District Congressman Sean Duffy with his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, who had their eighth child six weeks ago. Having met on the set of a reality TV show, they seemed to be auditioning to be the stars of another one.

A sixth Wisconsinite, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus, scrambled to hold the dysfunctional party together and gave a Thursday set-up speech for the candidate and his daughter.

There is no more loyal Republican than veteran Madison-area realtor Roger Stauter, who attended his third national convention. Stauter called the prospect of a President Trump “unnerving,” but added that Clinton “barely escaped indictment.”

“It’s a bad situation that we don’t have a better candidate,” Stauter said. “It’s my party. Trump is kind of a party crasher.”

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

3 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Walker Sells Himself at GOP Convention”

  1. tomw says:

    Meaning all disrespect, were those “medals” on the sheriff’s uniform for Pokemon “kills” or something else?

  2. AG says:

    Question: Was the “America deserves better” phrase a double entendre? Yes, the nation deserves better then a President Clinton, and – maybe – also a better Republican candidate than Trump?

    Answer: Yes.

  3. AndyD says:

    Thought we’d heard the last from Walker for a while, but something deep down told me I was wrong. I cringe each and every time this guy opens his mouth. A sycophant, a man with no moral compass or dignity.

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