By MJ LEE | 2/10/12 5:50 PM EST Updated: 2/10/12 6:00 PM EST
As goes Wisconsin, so goes the White House.
That was the sentiment from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who said Friday that a victory for him in the recall election that is expected to take place later this year will strengthen the chances of the Republican Party’s eventual presidential nominee winning his swing stated.
“I think if we’re available to prevail (in the recall contest), it won’t just be a statement about me and my policies,” Walker, who is in Washington for the Conservative Political Action Conference, told POLITICO in an interview. “I think even just the practicality of having an organizational framework, voters turning out, I think the idea is that it would at least make Wisconsin very competitive … in the presidential election.”
Wisconsin is considered one of about a dozen key presidential swing states this year. President Barack Obama easily carried the state in 2008.
But even beyond 2012, the stakes of the special election couldn’t be higher, Walker noted.
He said that if he keeps his seat, that would send a crushing blow to the “national big government union bosses” who have spent millions of dollars in Wisconsin in the effort against him in the hopes that a loss for the governor would serve as a warning sign to other conservative governors and elected officials across the country.
“When we prevail, it’ll send a powerful message not only to other Republican governors but arguably even to some of the discerning Democratic leader out there … that maybe more of us need to be tackling these tough issues,” he said. “[The unions] want to send a clear message to any politician, be it Republican of even a handful of the Democrats that might even consider this, that if you try anything courageous, if you try to tackle tough issues, you’re going to get burnt.”
Walker touched off an uproar last year by pushing through a law that ended most collective bargaining rights for public workers. Union members from across the country banded together and made Wisconsin a national symbol of right-wing conservatives using political power to take away workers’ rights, protesting for weeks outside of the state capitol and eventually organizing the impressive signature-collecting effort to oust Walker.
And stopping the unions in their tracks is exactly what he plans to do, Walker said Friday, noting that he isn’t coming from an “over-confident” stand point when he says he feels certain that he will emerge victorious.
“I’ve never been afraid to lose,” he said. “To me, there are too many politicians, particularly in this city, who spend all their time worrying about how not to lose the next election. My view is, you’ve got to do what’s right, what you’re elected to do, and the rest will … fall into place.”
While he has no regrets about decisions he has made as governor, Walker said he wishes he had had the hindsight to have communicated better with the people of Wisconsin about the tough choices he was about to make soon after being sworn into office.
“I just looked at it and said, here’s a problem, here’s a solution, now fix it. I never dreamed that there would be national attention and national money that came from the big government unions that would come in with TV ads and bodies being brought in from other states and all the protests that came out of that,” Walker told POLITICO.
Had he been more prepared for the state-wide outrage and had a better communications strategy, Walker said perhaps he wouldn’t be “making the case” once more for his policy decisions just over a year after he assumed the governoship.
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is currently in the process of reviewing the thousands of pages of petitions submitted by recall organizers last month. Four state senators challenged the validity of the petitions on Thursday, and Walker has a Feb. 27 deadline to do the same if he so chooses.
The governor said Friday that 1 million signatures may sound like a lot, but considering that there are 5.6 million people in Wisconsin, he is choosing to stay focused on the four-and-a-half million people who chose not to pen their names on the petition forms.
Walker said if anything, the recall drama in his own state is making voters think twice about risking “endless elections.”
“My guess would be after this election’s said and done and the Senate elections are done, the lesson learned from Wisconsin would be, recalls should be used very sparingly, and they really should be for things that most people assumed they were for, which is things like misconduct in office — not just a difference in opinion,” he said.
Walker, who has not endorsed a candidate in the presidential race, said the prolonged primary process was only doing a service to the Republican Party.
“I think the more these issues can get fleshed out the more the candidates have to deal with the specifics — I think that’s a health y thing,” he said.
“A nominee who didn’t have to go through that process … would make them very insulated to what the average American citizen is feeling. I think being out and having to fight every vote, having to defend their case frequently … I think we’ll end up with a good product.”
The governor said he believes Mitt Romney will — at least “in the end” — be able to provide conservative voters the inspiring vision that they are craving. “He has moments of it. I think he has parts of it,” Walker said.
Above all else, Walker hopes to see Romney focus his efforts on proving that if there’s one thing he’s not, it’s President Barack Obama.
“When you see the contrast, assuming he’s the nominee, between Gov. Romney and President Obama, I think there is a clear distinction there. And I think he’s got to hone in on that,” he said. “It can’ tbe just be about what’s wrong with the president. He’s got to talk about what’s right with America and how he’s going to move that fowrard.”