Guy Benson

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is up for (re) re-election next year, but the conservative favorite may have an eye on a bigger prize in 2016.  Minutes before he was greeted warmly by CPAC attendees, Walker told Townhall that he's keeping his options open regarding a potential presidential run: 
 


 

TOWNHALL: Have you given any thought to the presidential race in 2016?  Would you rule it out?

WALKER: In our case, we had to work so hard -- as you mentioned, twice -- in the last couple years to be governor, I owe it to the people who worked hard on my behalf and the people of my state, and stay focused on that.  God knows what the future holds, but in our case there's a lot of work to be done.  And the great thing about being a governor is, people only talk about [a presidential run] if you're doing a good job."


Walker was even more explicit in an interview with Politico's Jonathan Martin, published this morning:
 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker acknowledged in an interview Friday that he’s open to a presidential bid and pointedly declined to pledge to serve a full four-year term if he’s reelected next year. Walker insisted he was visiting Iowa in May only because he was invited by Gov. Terry Branstad. But when pressed about his White House ambitions, the Wisconsin Republican said: “Would I ever be [interested]? Possibly. I guess the only thing I’d say is I’m not ruling it out.” Perhaps even more notably, Walker wouldn’t commit to serving throughout a second four-year term. He said his focus is on substance, not longevity. “For me, it’s really a measure of what I’ve accomplished and what more I could accomplish if I was in a different position,” Walker [said].


On stage this morning, Walker demonstrated why he could be formidable on the national level.  Speaking without notes, he gently chided Republicans for relying too heavily on cerebral policy arguments and neglecting to speak to people's hearts.  On that front, Walker described his effective Badger State budget reforms, illustrating each success with empirical statistics and evocative personal anecdotes.  He sounded two central themes: Protecting "hard-working taxpayers," and showing authentic compassion by empowering individuals to free themselves from government dependency through the "dignity of work."  Making these messages resonate, he said, requires an optimistic, relevant vision -- and a generous dose of political courage.  Walker concluded his remarks with an upbeat ode to personal autonomy and independence from government.  "In America, we take a day off to celebrate the fourth of July, not the 15th of April," he said to a prolonged standing ovation.  Walker's principled leadership has twice been rewarded by voters in his purple state.  He's also an underrated communicator.  Walker manages to explain conservative ideas in an accessible manner, and understands political optics.  The preliminary 2016 buzz at CPAC mostly surrounded the usual suspects (Rubio, Paul, Jindal, Ryan, etc), but if Scott Walker keeps plugging away in Wisconsin, his name could very well enter that A-list conversation over the next few years.  I'll leave you with Walker's full remarks:
 


Incidentally, Walker's stirring crescendo was timed perfectly.  Unlike virtually every big name speaker at CPAC, he finished exactly on time, down to the second.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography