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Why Minnesota’s conservative factions are warming to Scott Walker

REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaking to supporters after a Republican organizing meeting in Concord, N.H., on Saturday.

Wisconsin governor and possible presidential candidate Scott Walker appears to be firming up his standing among Minnesota Republicans, with a special appeal to the state’s staunchest conservatives.

As MinnPost’s Eric Black has observed, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, a presidential candidate himself in 2010, has joined the pundit pack in declaring Walker as the candidate who can unite the far-right factions of the Republican party. 

The Minnesota Tea Party Alliance has already praised Walker for his signing Wisconsin’s right-to-work legislation. And in April, Walker will headline an event for the Freedom Club, a group of influential and wealthy conservatives.

Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette University Law School Poll, which has tracked Walker for almost a decade, agrees with the conclusion that Walker has appeals to hardline conservatives in a way that Jeb Bush does not — though not because Walker sprang from that wing of the party.  

“It’s important to note that Walker did not grow out of the Tea Party movement as much as the establishment wing of the party,” Franklin said. As proof, Franklin goes back to Walker’s first foray into statewide Wisconsin politics when he sought and lost the GOP endorsement for governor in 2006. “He didn’t challenge [endorsee] Mark Green but dropped out of the race and campaigned for him,” Franklin said.

Franklin ticked off a list of Walker’s other center-right credentials, starting with good relations with the business community. “Far from scaring the business community in Wisconsin, they feel in the end they will do the right thing from their point of view,” he said.

Within Wisconsin’s borders, Franklin says, Walker has downplayed his rhetoric on inflammatory issues like abortion and right-to-work laws.

Walker signed an anti-abortion bill requiring an ultrasound for any woman seeking an abortion. But in an ad during his 2014 re-election campaign, while stating clearly that he is pro-life, Walker said the final decision is between a woman and her doctor.

According to Franklin, Walker signed right-to-work legislation, pushed by Wisconsin’s Republican legislators, with minimal fanfare. “I agree there’s a shift to the right,” Franklin said about Walker’s tendency to promote highlight these positions before conservative audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire. “But it’s more being willing to be explicit about positions than what he wasn’t explicit on before.”

Wisconsin voters, Franklin said, are more willing to accept Walker’s ambiguities than national political reporters and Republican rivals, though it’s an open question of how well that tactic will work going forward. “Does what has worked very well in Wisconsin work as well on the presidential campaign trail?” Franklin asked. And will Wisconsin voters continue to give their governor such leeway?

Wisconsin may have that answer in a month or two when Marquette University Law School conducts its next poll, the first since Walker started his high-level of out-of-state campaigning, Franklin said.  “We’ll learn how his ambitions have affected his standing at home.” 

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/18/2015 - 09:30 am.

    A Real Conservative

    Would not expand government. Walker’s signing of the Right To Freeload legislation inserts the government in contracts between two private parties. That doesn’t square with smaller, less intrusive government.

    Further, it curtails liberty and seizes private property by forcing a private entity to use it’s resources to advocate for and defend those who are not financially supporting it.

    This is a clear repudiation of conservative principles. I find it odd that what is said to be a liberty loving organization (the Tea Party) favors big government limiting the liberty of private parties.

    This leads me to believe it’s not at all about liberty, but about limiting the ability of people to organize to advance their station in life.

  2. Submitted by richard owens on 03/18/2015 - 10:11 am.

    If budgets are moral documents, Scott Walker is el Diablo!

    What is this fascination with fiscal punishment/reward from Executives in the public sector?

    Which MN “Conservatives” would proudly attack our Land Grant University, our urban public schools and the very workers who make the whole state work?

    Per the above article:
    ” Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget, which would slash about $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system over two years, funnel hundreds of millions to build a pro-basketball stadium, and cut deeply from funds for health care, food stamps and public media.”

    “Funding at UW-Rock County would be stripped back to levels not seen since 1998, and the school’s dean has said faculty layoffs are almost certain. The situation appears even more dire at UW-Eau Claire, where administrators have offered buyouts to a record 325 faculty and staff members — about a quarter of the campus’ employees. These so-called “go away packages” have been offered to nearly half of the school’s political science department. UW-Stevens Point reports they will eliminate several entire majors, even for students currently enrolled in them.”

    (that’s just the COLLEGES being defunded)

    “Public primary schools across Wisconsin will lose about $127 million in education aid next year, largely by scrapping a special $150 per-student fund that Wisconsin school districts received over the past two years.”

    “The struggling Milwaukee public schools are set to lose more than $12 million.”

    “not only are the cuts “breathtaking,” they come as the schools are still reeling from the lost funding in the Governor’s 2011 budget.

    “Over the last several years we’ve seen more kids in each classroom, less individual attention for children, and cuts to music, art, and physical education programs,” he said. “There are also way fewer guidance councilors and social workers, and given the Depression-like economic conditions that are in the community here, that’s a real serious problem.”

    * * * *

    What possesses people to run for office for the purpose of intentionally hurting their own people?

    What makes MN Republican LIKE this kind of cruelty from their executives?

    Scott Walker is an economic disaster. When will Republicans notice?

    • Submitted by Martin Cain on 03/18/2015 - 07:04 pm.


      “What possesses people to run for office for the purpose of intentionally hurting their own people?”

      The answer is sociopathy which Walker possesses in nauseous abundance……..

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/18/2015 - 10:11 am.

    Walker’s credentials are flawless thus far, and he’s taken the best the shots the left has to offer and come out on top. He’s also proven himself capable of raising substantial amounts of campaign cash.

    At this point, he’s got everyone’s attention but he has work to do. We haven’t really heard his positions regarding foreign policy and immigration, for instance. This summer he’s going to have to introduce himself to America’s core constituency, and define his focus.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 03/18/2015 - 02:54 pm.

      A cut & paste job

      The exact same thing could have been said during the infancy of T-Paw’s bid. And we know how that turned out. A year from now you won’t even remember Walker was a Thing.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 03/19/2015 - 06:54 pm.


      his credentials are flawless all right. Wisconsin lags behind the rest of nation in private sector job growth. Go team…

  4. Submitted by Scott Alan on 03/18/2015 - 10:32 am.

    Follow the money

    Unions good, capitalism bad. Etc. I cannot imagine someone so greedy and wild eyed that they would think stealing payroll money to finance union politics is a good idea.
    Money laundering is what it looks like. Don’t forget, they think you are stupid. Insults apparently did not win the day for the anti Walker crowd. People want reasoned debate, not insults from the control crowd.
    By the way, the government is not here to help anyone and worse, Justice is the enemy of equality.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/19/2015 - 07:27 am.


      Indeed, follow the money. It will lead right back to the Kochtopus oligopoly which uses the ruse of “liberty” to amass ever larger amounts of wealth.

      They don’t drop millions of dollars on elections because they’re freedom loving patriots.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/18/2015 - 10:33 am.

    Minnesota voters?

    Does this article, which is largely based on the comments of a Wisconsin pollster, tell us why Minnesotans are warming to Walker? I think it also should be noted that although a pollster is quoted, his polls are not. Isn’t it a fundamental conflict of interest for a pollster to evaluate his own polls?

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 03/18/2015 - 12:45 pm.


    It is curious to me that Walker ticks all the boxes to establish conservative bona fides, but they’re not talking about the impact to the state. Deficits? No matter. Higher unemployment than neighbors? Irrelevant.

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/18/2015 - 02:32 pm.

    Mr. Walker

    …is tossing red meat to the faithful, so it’s no surprise that people who like to call themselves “conservative” would find him an appealing potential candidate. That what he’s selling is past its “Sell by” date doesn’t matter to that audience. As Mr. Swift obliquely mentions, there are areas of national policy that Walker has said nothing about, in large part because he has nothing to say – he doesn’t really know much of anything about them, has no experience with them, and when you have no clue, it’s usually best to keep your mouth closed. I’m sure he’ll be educated by the proper neocons as election season draws nearer, assuming he continues to draw cash and doesn’t commit some sort of egregious blunder.

    The most trenchant commentary comes from Mr. Foster and Mr. Simon. Walker won’t make much progress nationally if/when more of the punditocracy notices that the policies he’s been praised for by those on the right have not produced the promised results in his own state. At the moment, the fact that he’s saying what social conservatives and those who want to have someone to look down upon want to hear seems more important to both him and them. Time will tell…

  8. Submitted by Sarah Magnuson on 03/18/2015 - 05:01 pm.

    Very Interested In Next Poll

    This article specifically refers to Minnesota’s conservative elements, yet the upcoming Marquette poll will be of Wisconsin residents, if I’m reading this correctly. I am very interested in what the resident Wisconsin independents will “say” in the next poll. In my opinion, it is a given that the “conservative elements” love everything about Walker.

    Newly elected Walker talked fairly extensively about using GAAP accounting methods as that was the “real fiscal picture” of the state. He has since stopped mentioning this at all, probably because the GAAP deficit in Wisconsin is expected to grow to $2B in the next two years with the budget proposed.

    I give Walker credit for staying on message and never wavering from his chosen talking point. This is going to become much more difficult as he is in front of not so adoring audiences that want specifics, not generalizations. (Refer to last to paragraphs of WSJ article.) I think Walker is a bright new presidential star that will fizzle fairly quickly under the harsh reality of the national stage.

    Wait. And. See.

  9. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/18/2015 - 11:11 pm.


    Remember MN conservatives in 2002? After 8 years of Perpich, 8 years of the Rhino Arne Carlson and 4 years of Ventura, they finally made it to the mountain top: TPAW is elected Gov. They were like Flounder in Animal House: “oooh this is going to be so great”. TPAW, like Jindal, Brownback, Christie and Scott Walker found himself as Governor of a state with the ability to deliver on his ideology of tax and spending slashing. They all had their way and waited for economic euphoria to break out all over. And waited. And waited some more. All failed to deliver. Meanwhile, Mark Dayton is elected Governor on a platform that is the polar opposite: tax the rich and spend on civic amenities like schools and infrastructure. And prosperity does break out. Go figure. And now what do we see? A ground swell of Dayton for President? Not a chance. With the GOP facts and results are meaningless. It is all about ideological purity. Walker screws the unions, public and private, slashes education spending, hands out tax breaks, all with no positive economic results and is the self described “Front runner” for the GOP nomination. And who is chasing him? Fellow losers like Jindal and Christie. Thank goodness for the Senate where nothing gets done so Rubio and Rand can claim no accomplishments; but, can not be blamed for any failures. Pity the poor GOP, if they ever face the reality of their faulty ideology they will overwhelm all of the mental health care resources of Obamcare.

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