Scott Walker has been rebranding himself, and New Hampshire voters are taking notice. The Republican presidential candidate and former Iowa caucus favorite emphasized his working class outlook, deeply-held conservative principles, and willingness to go against his own party if it means championing conservatism, Thursday afternoon at a campaign stop in Sunapee, New Hampshire.
A crowd of around 100 gathered at the One Mile West Restaurant and Bar to hear the Wisconsin governor speak.
“I’m not intimidated from anything. I’m not intimidated from the big government union bosses. I’m not intimidated from the liberal special interests from Washington. I’m not intimidated by the establishment in my own party,” an energized Walker told the mostly older crowd.
“Now more than ever, we need leaders that are willing to stand up and not be intimidated by anybody,” he said.
Bogged down by the surging poll numbers of real estate magnate Donald Trump, Walker has been quick to emerge as a candidate willing to go unscripted and shoot from the hip in audience interactions and grassroots engagement with voters.
“For us it’s simple. Grow the economy, repeal Obamacare, reign in the federal regulations that are like a wet blanket on the nation’s economy, put in place an all-of-the-above energy policy – you know we’re finally an energy-rich country we can use it to fuel our nation’s recovery – and help people get the education and skills that they need to succeed in careers that pay far, far more than the minimum wage and then lower the tax burden,” he added.
America doesn’t need to be the “world’s policeman,” but it does need to stand up for itself and allies like Israel Walker said, also adding that the recent Iran deal leads down a very dangerous path, as do concessionary policies with countries such as Russia and China.
America Needs To Start Acting Like It’s Great Again
“America is a great country. We need to just start acting like it again,” he said.
Attendees applauded and cheered as he talked about he and his wife Tonette’s decision to get involved in politics for the good of their children.
“We had over 100,000 protesters come into our state. We had all sorts of threats, death threats – threats against my family. Eventually the recall election. And then last year, another election where I was the number one target in America. If it had just been about the title or the position I would have probably checked out. I would’ve said ‘forget it,’” Walker told the crowd, standing near a sign advertising steaks and dinner specials at the charming rustic restaurant.
“But because of Matt and Alex, and their generation, we hung in there, and I’m proud to tell you that today we’re much better off because of it. They’re growing up in a state that’s even better than the one we grew up in.”
Walker got his biggest applause lines on a promise to repeal Obamacare, stand up for American workers and be a tough negotiator in the foreign arena with a Reagan-like approach to national security.
“Under President Reagan, we rebuilt the military, we stood up for our allies, we stood up against our enemies and without apologies we stood for strong American values and that brought about one of the most peaceful times in modern American history,” Walker said.
Some of today’s conservatives, by contrast, are lacking in backbone, Walker said, painting a picture in which “the Obama/Clinton doctrine” of leading from behind is dragging America through the mud, including any conservatives weak-kneed enough to go along with it.
“That has us headed towards a disaster,” Walker said.
The temerity he perceives from some on the right and from the left typifies his experience in Wisconsin as well, Walker said.
“If we just nibble around the edges we have every right to be thrown out. I said it is ‘put up or shut up time,’” Walker said of governing Wisconsin where he defeated Democrat Tom Barrett in the 2012 recall election and Democrat Mary Burke in 2014 despite the large protests against his policies limiting collective bargaining rights.
“I look at this country and look at the things we need to do to reform government, and take power out of Washington, and send it back to the states and back to the people,” said Walker, who is also the first American governor to survive a recall election.
“I’ve got a plan I just announced this week not only to repeal Obamacare but to light a fire under the Congress,” Walker said of a planned executive order that would incentivize Congress to act swiftly.
Afterwards, Walker said his message pumps up voters because it’s about doing the conservative thing even if it means going against the party grain.
He’s Willing To Fight, And Win
“People get excited when I talk about how we’ve taken on not just the big government liberal special interests in Washington who came out against us in the recall and the protest, but how we took on our own party, took on the establishment in our party who was reluctant to go big and go bold,” Walker said afterwards in a press conference, adding his enthusiasm about his own plans to make healthcare more affordable for Americans.
“I’m willing to fight and win for the American people whether it means taking on the opposing party or special interests in Washington or even the leadership of my own party to make sure we get the job done.”
That’s a message that resonates with supporters like Kristin Small from Claremont, New Hampshire, who attended Walker’s remarks in Sunapee and is impressed with him.
Though her number one presidential choice is Ted Cruz, Small said Walker appeals to her on various levels because of his conservative values and tough approach.
It’s also a big draw for Walker campaign volunteer Chris Ajer from Amherst, New Hampshire, who is taking three weeks off from his management position in aerospace engineering to campaign for Walker.
“I think this is great,” he said “It’s a small venue and it’s away from the dense population centers and a lot of people in New Hampshire live out in the towns, small towns and I think it’s important that the governor and any of the candidates show attention not just to the urban populated centers but to all the different demographics in the state,” said Ajer who added he considers himself a “staunch conservative across the board.”
Ajer said he has supported Walker for “about a month” since meeting him in person at a multi-candidate dinner at the Belknap County Republican Committee.
“I met him, talked to him for awhile, my wife and I, and after that we came back,” Ajer said, adding that he also likes Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Chris Christie in the Republican field.
“I like him, he’s tough, he gets the job done, competent, and I want a governor,” Ajer said noting Walker’s executive experience as governor means a great deal to him.
Trump’s attacks blaming him for Wisconsin’s debt are not only false, they’re old hat Democratic talking points, Walker said in response to a question from The Federalist.
“Those are the same talking points the Democrats have used in the past and they haven’t worked,” Walker said. “I won three times in four years and Wisconsin had a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We fixed it and we cut taxes by $2 billion, the bonding levels were the lowest in 20 years. The rainy day fund is 165 times bigger than when we took office. Wisconsin is one of only two states in the country that has a fully-funded pension system. So the facts are pretty clear: Wisconsin’s better off. Those are things the Democrats have said about me in the past which are not accurate which is why I’ve won three elections in four years.”
Walker: The Optimist
Earlier in his remarks to supporters, Walker also took an implied tack against Trump, painting himself as an optimist who sees the problems but doesn’t only focus on them.
“I’m an optimist. As angry as people are today I believe that if it was just about anger people would’ve checked out given up. I don’t believe people have given up on America. I’ve certainly not given up on this great country. I hope you’re not either. With your help, together, we can make this country great again,” Walker said, perhaps unintentionally echoing Trump’s campaign slogan.
As for fellow contender Jeb Bush’s comments earlier Thursday that Cruz and Marco Rubio benefited from birthright citizenship, Walker said, “you’ll have to ask Governor Bush that.” But emphasized his desire to secure the border first and then deal with questions of immigration without amnesty, and with a legal immigration system that prioritizes American workers.
Slipping polls in his home state also doesn’t bother him Walker said, adding he still has a “significant lead.”
His campaign stop was not without detractors present as well, though.
One woman heckled Walker during his meet and greet about his approval of a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, coupling it with claims he doesn’t adequately support higher education. The woman was coaching a young girl what to say and then took over directly, shouting questions and accusations at Walker about the details of the stadium and its donors.
Wisconsin teen Annalisa Kennedy, who was on vacation with her grandparents in the area, attended Walker’s remarks and later appeared outside with a sign reading ‘Walker for President.’ She flipped the sign over as Walker left in an SUV so it read ‘Walker is John Doe.’ The John Doe probe found Walker’s campaign free of wrongdoing and was over in July, so it was unclear why it was still regarded as fresh news by the young lady and her grandmother who had asked a question of Walker earlier about renewable energy.
That is until their political leanings were declared.
Kennedy shouted “feel the Bern!” and “solidarity!” as Walker left.
Walker appeared both confident and competent Thursday, listing off detailed analyses of geopolitics alongside economic and energy prescriptions for the country seemingly effortlessly, and engaging with the crowd with an affable, down-to-earth candor. Though he has a ways to go to climb up in the polls, Walker’s ability to appeal to New Hampshire Republicans and Independents is very much evident.