By Andy Sullivan
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Reuters) - Potential Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker told grassroots conservatives on Thursday that his battle with labor unions as Wisconsin's governor had given him the mettle needed to take on militant groups like Islamic State.
"We need a leader who will stand up and say we will take the fight to them and not wait until they take the fight to American soil," Walker told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same in the rest of the world," he added.
At one point, Walker was greeted with a chant of "Run, Scott, run."
The Badger State's 47-year-old governor has emerged as an early favorite in the battle to win the Republican nomination in the November 2016 presidential election. He was among more than a dozen potential candidates due to address activists at CPAC in Maryland near Washington on Thursday and Friday.
Like many other potential candidates, Walker has argued that Democratic President Barack Obama has not been aggressive enough in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and other extremist groups in the Middle East.
Walker triggered weeks of bitter protests shortly after he took office in 2011 when he pushed legislation that stripped collective-bargaining rights for many public workers and cut their benefits. He emerged as a national figure after surviving a recall attempt the following year and was re-elected in the politically competitive state last November.
(Additional reporting by Emily Flitter and Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)