ATLANTA – The man many veteran political watchers consider the front runner, or one of them, brought his presidential campaign through Georgia Wednesday as part of his initial announcement tour.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker held a fundraiser and spoke at a posh Buckhead club to end a day that included three stops in South Carolina. In an already well used stump speech, he highlighted his experience fighting unions and cutting spending as governor and promising to do the same in the White House. “We did all these things in a blue state like Wisconsin. I believe we can do it anywhere in America,” he said.
When the 47-year-old, second-term governor officially jumped into the race for the Republican nomination Tuesday, he was the15th major candidate, including senators, television personalities and other governors. Businessman Donald Trump is leading the race in current polls, but many observers predict that he will eventually lose momentum to Scott and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who both have greater political experience and better organized campaigns.
Walker and Bush have shared the lead in early polls until attacks against Trump for his comments on immigrants triggered a backlash among populist voters. Scott still leads in neighboring Iowa, the first state to hold primary balloting, which could propel him to higher status in other states. Scott is banking on his experience and conservatism to appeal to Georgia voters. “I want to stress how important Georgia is. We didn’t come here by accident,” he said. “…Georgia is going to make a difference, so get used to seeing us.”
His efforts to weaken organized labor made him a target for unions here in Georgia who pointed to a statement by their national president.
“Scott Walker is a national disgrace”, said ALF-CIO President Richard Trumka. The Democratic Party of Georgia offered a similar assessment. “Republicans have 15 candidates in the race now, and not a single one of them is qualified to run a lemonade stand”, said DuBose Porter, the party’s chairman. “If elected, Scott Walker, who places special interests and his own ambition above the middle class, would deliver a body blow to working Americans.”
But Walker notes that he beat the unions in a Democratic state, becoming the only governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. Besides trumpeting his own accomplishments, Walker devoted some of his talk to the 100 supporters to attacking the Obama administration. He blasted the president’s nuclear agreement with Iran as being naive and dangerous for Israel. He promised to rescind the the agreement his first day in office, adding that he sees little change in Iran from its policies when it held American embassy employees hostage in 1980.
Walker isn’t as well known in Georgia as other candidates like Trump, Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Before voting in the state’s March 1 primary, he promised to build a full organization here and to return often. The fact that he even made a stop in the Peach State on his announcement tour indicates the newfound strategic importance of the state’s primary, which is being held in conjunction with several other states. Georgia officials sought to organize a regional primary in hopes it would have just that impact.