By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker flexed his fundraising muscle in 2013, building a campaign war chest more than triple the size of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, finance reports filed on Friday showed.
At the end of 2013, Walker's campaign had $4.6 million, according to the reports filed with the state, compared with the $1.3 million Burke's campaign said it had in its coffers on December 31.
A victory in the governor's race in November could thrust Walker further into the national political spotlight where he could emerge as a top-tier candidate for president in 2016.
The first-term governor became a national conservative hero in 2011 when he pushed through severe restrictions on the power of public sector unions and was the first U.S. governor in history to survive a recall election.
Burke, who is Walker's only announced opponent, launched her candidacy during the first week of October. She raised $1.8 million, according to her campaign, between her announcement and the end of 2013. Walker raised $5.1 million during the last half of 2013, according to the filing on Friday.
Burke is the daughter of the founder of bicycle manufacturer Trek, based in Wisconsin. She promised to improve the state's sluggish job growth, which ranks 45th among states, according to Moody's.
The recall campaign helped Walker build a national fundraising apparatus that could prove helpful in the 2014 election and beyond. He raised $37 million during the recall race.
A Marquette University Law School poll of registered voters in October showed the candidates in a virtual dead heat, with 47 percent of respondents favoring Walker and 45 percent for Burke.
Speculation is growing that if Walker can fend off Burke he will consider a run for the White House.
Walker has written a campaign-themed book, visited Iowa, New Hampshire and other pivotal election-year states and stumped for candidates nationwide. Analysts said these are signs that he is positioning himself for a presidential run.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Shumaker)