Wisconsin Public Radio

Walker Runs Race on His Own Terms

Have Democrats figured out what it takes to beat Walker?

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jun 5th, 2018 03:50 pm
Gov. Scott Walker promotes the state's child tax credit during a stop in Sussex. Shawn Johnson/WPR

Gov. Scott Walker promotes the state’s child tax credit during a stop in Sussex. Shawn Johnson/WPR

When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stopped at a Shopko department store in the Waukesha County village of Sussex recently to promote his new $100-per-child tax credit, the mood was relaxed, and so was Walker.

About a dozen reporters showed up, and about a dozen employees did too. Walker talked to a few of them on his way in about what he’d heard from a parent of 10 children at a previous stop.

“She said, ‘Here are my kids,'” Walker told employees. “‘That’s a grand right there.'”

As he moved to a microphone in front of the kids’ sportswear section, Walker said the child tax credit was another way to give back to taxpayers. He said Democrats who call the checks election year bribes are really just knocking him.

“Let’s just be honest here, state Democrats — you fill in the blank — they’re opposed to whatever I’m for,” Walker said. “I think voters want people who tell you what they’re for and do it as opposed to people who tell you what they’re against.”

As Walker seeks his third term as governor, and pursues his fourth general election victory in the past eight years, it’s events like these that are defining his campaign.

Observers say the approach is likely driven by what’s worked for Walker in the past, and it’s made possible this year because Democrats are still months away from picking a nominee out of a crowded primary field.

The Walker Record

The governor’s positive approach so far has carried over to his advertising, where, with money spread thin among Democrats, Walker is the only candidate who’s purchased TV ads.

He’s run four of them so far, all touting accomplishments. Three ads promote people who got private sector jobs with help from state government.

Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said Walker’s positive approach could be aimed more at casual Democratic voters than it is at Republicans.

Those voters might not like Walker’s more controversial policies, Sabato said, so Walker is giving them something else to think about.

“Maybe he’s trying to melt a little of the intensity of the Democrats in opposing him,” Sabato said. “If you reduce the intensity level of the opposing party, in effect, you’re reducing turnout among the opposing party. And that’s half the ballgame in a midterm election.”

In addition to the latest round of tax cuts, Walker is using other recent accomplishments to make his pitch. The current state budget spends more on schools. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate, which stood at 2.8 percent in the last monthly estimate, is at an all-time low.

The last few years, however, have not been without controversy.

In 2014, Walker dismissed suggestions that he would sign a right to work law or run for president. In 2015, he did both.

And last year, Walker negotiated a contract that could pay electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group up to $4.5 billion in taxpayer money to build flat screen displays at a new plant in southeast Wisconsin.

Walker has toured the state to promote the deal, while U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said he tells the governor’s opponents that Foxconn is what will help them win in 2018.

“I have told them all the exact same thing,” Pocan said recently. “That Foxconn is radioactive toxic across the state, not just in my district but anywhere I go.”

Walker speaks to Shopko employees during a campaign stop in Sussex. Shawn Johnson/WPR

Walker speaks to Shopko employees during a campaign stop in Sussex. Shawn Johnson/WPR

The Democratic Playbook

Still, there are at least some Democrats who worry their party still hasn’t figured out what it takes to beat Walker.

Consultant Scott Wittkopf, who is advising Democrat Mike McCabe in the governor’s race, said the party’s focus since Walker took office has been to attack him.

“The problem with that is that that resonates with the choir,” Wittkopf said. “And the slice of the pie in terms of political discourse that aligns with the choir has been shrinking.”

Wittkopf argues the strategy has let Walker frame the debate using well-established messages that motivate conservatives.

“It’s easy for him to do because conservatives for the last 60 years have done such a great job of laying the foundation for these, what we call ‘deep frames,'” Wittkopf said. “These ideas that evoke their values and their ideas unconsciously.”

Wittkopf contends that when Democrats try to fight Walker on those grounds, instead of establishing their own political “frame,” they lose.

Former conservative talk radio host Jerry Bader, who’s now the communications director for MediaTrackers.org, said when Democrats pledge to repeal Walker’s accomplishments, like Act 10, the law that effectively ended many public-sector unions in the state, they play into his hand. Bader said it lets Walker run a campaign that’s similar to his 2012 recall victory.

“It gives him, perhaps, an opportunity to reignite that passion,” Bader said. “‘Hey, we did it, you protected it, you need to protect it again.'”

Bader thinks Democrats have demonized Walker so much that they’ve lost credibility.

“A lot of the gloom and doom stuff that they predicted did not come to pass,” Bader said.

The Trump Factor

Walker has even gone so far as to suggest this year that Democrats are filled with “anger and hatred” toward him, referencing a comment by state schools Superintendent Tony Evers, one of the many Democrats running for governor, who said Walker was an “idiot” for rejecting federal Medicaid funds.

“I think a lot of voters are shocked to think that people who hold office would call other people in office things like that,” Walker said.

There is, of course, a more prominent officeholder who insults people on a regular basis.

President Donald Trump, the leader of the Republican Party, is known for calling people names when they cross him. But Walker downplays suggestions that Trump makes his case more difficult.

“You know, Washington is a whole different place,” Walker said. ” I think the contrast is, if people don’t like what’s happening in Washington with anybody – Democrat, Republican alike – if they don’t like the tone there, we’re the cure to that. In Wisconsin, we get things done.”

It’s a fine line for Walker, who supports Trump and has said he would campaign with the president if he returns to Wisconsin.

Walker’s political instincts have served him well in Wisconsin, but at least 10 Democrats are hoping they’ll be the one to end the winning streak.

Listen to the WPR story here.

As Democrats Line Up Against Him, Walker Takes Upbeat Approach was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

16 thoughts on “Walker Runs Race on His Own Terms”

  1. A Prire says:

    Q: Whats the most vulgar male reference, toward an individual, (similar to the Samantha B remark to the Trump daughter) that you can think of, when considering Scotty’s record?
    A: Scott Walker


  2. LenaTaylorNeedsToResign says:

    Wonderful balanced piece! Looking forward to working hard to re-elect the greatest, most significant Governor our state has ever known. Forward Wisconsin, and forward Governor Walker!

  3. PMD says:

    WashCoRepub. LOL.

  4. Troll says:

    Why is this article here? It screams balanced news. A lot of good political meat.

  5. Matt says:

    “There is, of course, a more prominent officeholder who insults people on a regular basis.

    President Donald Trump, the leader of the Republican Party, is known for calling people names when they cross him. But Walker downplays suggestions that Trump makes his case more difficult”.

    So there is actual video of Walker saying all kinds of nice things about Trump, our vanquished hillbilly putting on his happy face and praising what turns out to be a serial rapist.

    There is his old pal Robin Vos being corrupt and casual with his taxpayer dollars;

    There is all the Obamacare money he refused because his health insurance is free and screw everyone else. He’s already got ads up pretending he’s good on health care while premiums are rising;

    There is torture at a juvenile prison on his watch;

    And apparently there is a lady with ten kids that got 1000 bucks because hey, why not.

  6. Terry says:

    Those “terms” of career politician Scott Walker are lying, cheating, stealing, scapegoating, corruption, blaming the working class, the poor, minorities, women, teachers, Obama, Jim Doyle, Hillary, “liberals” etc basically everyone but himself. That’s the Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Republican way!

    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump All Republicans 2018!

    Watch out for all those potholes, I mean Scottholes Walker has left the state strewn with! Thanks for nothing Walker, you Big Government.mooching fraud.

  7. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Walker has incredible record, compared to Barrett, 8th most dangerous city in America. Doyle who left us 3.6 billion in deficit, but most for bringing our workers jobs.
    Foxconn is the best business deal in our history that will bring 50,000 jobs, after multiplier, top flight jobs, spur a housing boom, and bring many other companies, in the next ten years. This can keep our kids home, instead of running around the world to states that welcome business, get families off food stamps, welfare, and may make cities/Lefties realize the they must reach kids to read and keep them off drugs so they can pass employee tests.

  8. Dumbledore says:

    Wisconsin population simply isn’t growing much – and worse, people are leaving for higher wages, convenient mass transit, urban living, better road conditions. I am one of them, having left Wisconsin earlier this year for all of that. Wisconsin had net migration of -68,000 residents from 2010-2017. The total population still grew by 105,000 based on births, but of course children don’t vote. Wisconsin’s population growth of 1.8% from 2010-2017 was 38 out of 50 states and was outpaced by Minnesota (5%), Nebraska (4.9%) and Iowa (3.1%).

    Wisconsin’s population is also growing older. In 2016, 31% of Wisconsin’s population was age 55 or older, compared to 28% for the US as a whole. Wisconsin skewed older than any neighboring state – Illinois at 28%, Iowa 30%, Michigan 30% and Minnesota 29%.

    Bottom line is that the “Get Off My Lawn” crowd is taking over Wisconsin and Scott Walker is playing to their issues – no new money spent on roads, parks, transit, schools, etc. In 5 years, they’ll idly wonder where everyone else went and why their kids never call after moving to other states. In 10 years they’ll panic when they realize there is no one left to purchase their homes for a decent price and take care of them in nursing homes.

  9. Jacob currently of the MKE says:

    It’s obvious that treason and racism is the base of all conservative principles.

  10. Jacob currently of the MKE says:

    WCD you live in an alternate reality. Your fake local control republicans have bled Milwaukee dry and all you rightwing leaches take billions out of the city every year.

    WI Republicans are racist, and if they support Walker support a criminal, if you support Trump a traitor.

  11. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Jacob , thanks, you were my enertainment for the day.

  12. Terry says:

    Dump Walker 2018!
    No more career politician republican moochers!
    No more racist republican schemers!
    No more Scottholes on our streets!
    No more corporate welfare for Chinese companies with our money!
    No more republican gerrymandering stealing our voting rights!
    No more scapegoating women, teachers, minorities, the working class or poor!
    No more selling our state out to republican’s Big Corporate Dark Money billionaire donors!
    No more education and schools cuts!
    No more destroying our environment!
    No more pay to play republican corruption!

    Dump Walker!
    Legalize cannabis!
    Let’s join the modern world and pave the roads!

  13. MKE Kid says:

    Bottom line is that Walker’s Wisconsin is appealing to a bunch of angry frightened old farts. I know. My older sister has changed into one. She’s a crest of the Boomer wave who was used to having her ass kissed in the 1960s and 1970s. Now the world no longer kisses her aged ass and has passed her and her generation by. So she has become bitter and angry and is lashing out against the 21st century. I don’t know anyone whose grandkids are planning on staying in WI. WI, under Walker, has gotten a national reputation of being a backwater inbred Dixiecrat state with colder weather.

  14. John says:

    Hey WCD, bring in 50,000 jobs? That’s a statement with no foundation or based on any facts. Same as Foxconn’s promise. They say they might bring in 13,000 jobs but that statement is not even a promise, it just a meaningless number. They are not accountable to actually hiring any specific number and of the people that get jobs how many will be from Illinois? Throwing out meaningless numbers is just lying.

  15. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    John, better fro people to think you are ignorant then open mouth!!! That is the proper multiplier for a base industry like Tech, compared to big retail operations which have much smaller multiplier.
    We have big housing shortage, so over the next ten years will have to build 10,000 homes at least, plus more roads, retail medical suppliers and much more.
    As Chair of the Wet Allis Progress Steering Committee we spent years on this after AC went broke.
    People here have lots of opinions, mostly ignorant. They only want to smack Walker and Trump. When they had power: Doyle and Barrett both were giant mess. Now only Milwaukee is worst run city in country.
    They care little about the kids that are unemployed in Racine/Kenosha and Milwaukee.
    They prefer to keep them peddling drugs, getting food stamps, welfare.

  16. Terry says:

    Poverty rates just hit 32 year highs in Wisconsin!


    Career politician Scott Walker and republicans got drunk on power and drove the state into the ditch! More people are working for sure after Obama’s stimulus saved the global economy after Bush and republican’s imploded it but unfortunately they are usually forced to worl 2-3 part time no benefits $7.50 an hour slave wage jobs but that, nor trying to buy crappy low wage manufacturing jobs from China like Career Politician Scott Walker is trying to do with 4.5 Billion of our tax dollars will help that. Did you miss it? Poverty rates just hit 32 year highs in Wisconsin. The only people getting paid in Wusconsin are lifelong Big Government moochers like Walker and of course his Big Corporate donors he sold the state off to. They are doing great, everybody else subsidizes their lives, their health care, their housing, everything and yet we get jack shit in return. Tanks for NOTHING Walker and republicans! You SUCK!


    Dump Walker 2018
    Dump ALL Republicans 2018

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