CONCORD — Scott Walker was preaching to the proverbial choir today. The pro-reform message that so incensed his critics in Wisconsin and across the country played well among hard core New Hampshire Republican activists – especially when it came to education.
Wrapping up a two-day visit to the first primary state, Walker spoke at a NHGOP training session for activists about how, he said, results rather than rhetoric not only allowed him to survive a recall election in 2012, but also to win reelection last year.
After union members outside of Concord High School protested his appearance, NHGOP Jennifer Horn introduced Walker by noting that this week, he signed into law legislation making Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state.
Answering questions following a 15-minute talk, Walker opposed the federal Common Core education standards program and No Child Left Behind, saying, “I’d just rather have the money and the authority go back to the local level.”
And he said, “I’m all for high standards,” but he said education reform in Wisconsin, with no seniority, no tenure, means “we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means the schools can put the best and the brightest in the classrooms and the good news is, our scores are better.
“I believe in high standards set at the local level,” he said, noting that his recent state budget proposal “removes any legal requirement from any school district in my state to have to abide by and it removes all funding for the Smarter Balance test which is tied to Common Core.”
Speaking with reporters following the event, Walker denied that he has “flip-flopped” on that issue and others. He acknowledged that after he “listened to people all across the country,” he changed his mind on immigration reform and is now opposed to it. But he denied changing his pro-life stance on abortion and his support for Renewable Fuel Standards and ethanol subsidies.
While not officially announcing his candidacy for President, Walker came close, noting that that his two sons, Matt and Alex, 20 and 19, will probably be taking off part of a semester “to come to New Hampshire and come around the country and talk to young people like themselves.”
“We’re obviously feeling pretty strong about reactions, such as we got here today and others across the country,” he said.
He did not mention any other potential candidates, but a veiled reference to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was also in the state Saturday, was detectable when talked about his own upbringing.
“My father was a preacher, my mom was a secretary,” he said. “My grandparents were farmers. My mom didn’t have indoor plumbing until she went off to junior high.
“From my parents and grandparents, I didn’t inherit fame or fortune,” he said. “What I got was something more important – the belief that in America if you work hard and if you played by the rules, you should be able to do or be anything you want. That has slipped away and we need to restore that again in America.”
Walker donned a Gun Owners of New Hampshire hat and noted that he signed legislation making Wisconsin a concealed carry and Castle Doctrine state.
He also waded aggressively into foreign policy.
Gov. Scott Walker speaks to about 400 NH Republicans
at Concord High School auditorium Saturday
“We’ve got a President who draws a line in the sand and somehow allows people to cross it, a President who calls ISIS the JV squad, who calls Yemen a success story, who calls Iran a place we can do business with, whose former Secretary of State gave Russia a reset button,” he said.
“We need a commander-in-chief in this country who once and for all stands up and says our biggest threat is radical Islamic terrorism, and we will do whatever it takes to root it out anywhere in the world. We need a President who understands that we have an ally in Israel and we should start acting like it.”
He likened radical Islamic terrorism to a “virus on your computer – if you don’t take care of it, it will keep coming back. I want to take the fight to them rather than wait until it comes to American soil.
“I don’t think that means you automatically go with ground troops,” Walker said, “But unlike this President, I will not signal to our enemies how far we will go.
“I’m not proposing full-scale boots on the ground, but I’m not taking it off the table,” he said.
Confirmed for GOP summit
Walker will be back in New Hampshire next month. Party chair Horn announced he has confirmed an appearance at the April 17-18 NHGOP “First-in-the-Nation Republican Leadership Summit” at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua. He is the 14th potential GOP presidential candidate, to do so, leaving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and surgeon Dr. Ben Carson as the only major potential candidates yet to confirm.
“We’re very excited to add Scott Walker,” Horn said. “As you could see here today, there is a tremendous amount of interest in him here in New Hampshire. He was very well-received. That goes to the larger interest and excitement that we have in the Republican Party in New Hampshire right now. People are ready for something better.”
Walker described himself as someone who overcame odds in Wisconsin to win not only a recall election, but also reelection. He said that despite attacks from opponents, the reforms he implemented convinced voters to support him.
Accompanied by his wife, Tonette, he said he has “a lot of the same worries about this country today that I had when we first ran for governor.”
Walker said Obama “and many of his allies out there, like Hillary Clinton, believe that you grow the economy in Washington,” which he said, “I call 68 square miles surrounded by reality.”
He said the vast majority of Americans believe that “we create jobs, not the government.”
He said he has lowered taxes a total of $2 billion in his state — on individuals, businesses and property. Walker likened his approach to taxation to Kohl’s stores’ low prices and high volume sales.
“I could charge you a high rate that few of you can afford, or I can lower the rates, broaden the base and have more people participate in the economy, and that’s the way you fuel the economy going forward,” Walker said.
Walker said Obama “and his allies measure success in government by how many people are dependent on government. How many people are on Medicaid and food stamps and unemployment. We should measure success by just the opposite – by how many people are no longer dependent on the government.”