Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin governor Scott Walker seems to be making the Midwest a proving ground for his campaign.
A day after he countered a protester at the Iowa State Fair with a vigorous defense of his policies in Wisconsin, he unveiled a major policy initiative Tuesday in the Twin Cities, capped by an appearance at a fundraiser for Republican activist group.
At a manufacturing company in Brooklyn Center, Walker offered his alternative to the Affordable Care Act. The plan includes tying tax credits to age, not income; “eliminating Obamacare’s regulations,” i.e., reducing insurance mandates, which he says would lower insurance costs by 25 percent; and expanding contribution limits to Health Savings Accounts. The Walker proposal would retain the current provision that prohibits insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.
The Democratic National Committee immediately criticized the plan as a catastrophe for the 16 million people who now use the federal health care plan and “a vague grab-bag of conservative wish-list items.”
Scrapping Obamacare on “day one” in office, Walker argued, would not have a negative impact. “In the end they’re going to have the ability to find affordable and accessible health care,” he told a group of reporters. “They’re just going to be able to do that without a federal mandate. People will be eligible for the tax credit.”
Walker could have chosen a more delegate-rich state to make a policy splash. (Minnesota sends just 38 delegates to the Republican National Convention; by comparison, Florida sends 99.) But at the fundraiser in St. Paul for the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, he acknowledged a comfort level with his Midwest neighbors.
“For me, I think there’s a certain amount of Midwestern nice [from] people who are familiar with each other in the Midwest,” he said after an hour of hugs and photos with the crowd. “I’ve been here a number of times in the past. People are familiar as they are in Iowa and Illinois with our track record.”
He referred to that track record when told a member of Minnesota Hispanic Republican Assembly had questioned Walker’s outreach to Hispanic voters. “This is my first official visit as a candidate,” he said. “Outreach to everybody is what I’m doing right now. But we’ll do well. When I was Milwaukee County executive, I carried almost all the Hispanic wards in the city of Milwaukee… because I talked about educational opportunities through school choice and entrepreneurship through helping small businesses grow.”
According to national polls, Walker is currently in the middle of the pack of the 17 Republicans vying for the nomination, although he holds a narrow lead in Minnesota. U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul are also considered contenders among the Minnesota’s Republican activists.
But Walker has the best-established ground game in the state to secure delegates for the March 1 caucuses where, in a 17-way race, neighbors may be a candidate’s best friends.