From the home office in Madison, Wisconsin, OTC presents the top 10 stories from Gov. Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential exploration so far (with apologies to David Letterman):
No. 10: Walker handily wins his third election in four years after polls showed a much closer race. Within weeks his campaign discusses plans for ramping up a presidential exploration.
No. 9: The national media buzz about Walker’s breakout performance at the Iowa Freedom Summit, launching him into the top tier of candidates.
No. 8: Walker launches Our American Revival, a 527 nonprofit group that can raise unlimited money and house his presidential campaign team in waiting, including former state party executive director Rick Wiley. Groups supporting campaign finance restrictions file complaints with the Federal Elections Commission.
No. 7: Walker tells conservative activists at CPAC that taking on 100,000 protesters prepares him to take on ISIS terrorists, fueling concerns that Walker needs to “bone up” on foreign policy. He’s voted second in the CPAC straw poll.
No. 6: Walker “punts” when asked about his views on evolution during a trade mission in London.
No. 5: At the Iowa Ag Summit, Walker says he supports the federal renewable fuel standard, sort of, at least for a few years. Critics pounce on that and his shifting statements on immigration, abortion and right-to-work as signs he’s a flip-flopper.
No. 4: OAR hires, then fires, political strategist Liz Mair after her Tweets disparaging the Iowa caucus are criticized by the Iowa Republican Party chairman. The episode underscores the importance of the state to Walker’s potential presidential strategy.
No. 3: Billionaire David Koch, who is hoping to assist the Republican nominee with nearly $1 billion, says: “We will support whoever the candidate is. But it should be Scott Walker.” He later clarifies that he isn’t taking sides in the primary.
No. 2: Walker visits Israel for the first time, sans reporters, to learn more about Middle East.
No. 1: Walker makes the official announcement via Twitter. He’s supporting the Badgers in the NCAA Finals. They lose to Duke 68-63.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was the face of a fundraising appeal this week from the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
The appeal comes after Republicans put the state’s second-ranking office-holder front and center last weekend at their state party convention in La Crosse. It’s another sign the party may be elevating Kleefisch’s profile as Gov. Scott Walker edges closer to a presidential bid.
“The eyes of the nation are on us once again, and we’ve worked too hard and come too far to let the Democrats destroy the progress we’ve made,” Kleefisch said in the fundraising email.
Kleefisch is a former television news anchor who launched her political career as Walker’s running mate in the 2010 election. At the time Walker’s campaign manager called her “radioactive,” but Walker has more recently called her a “trusted ally.”
Walker made a point to recognize her at the state convention, singling her out as “America’s greatest lieutenant governor.”
Johnson most vulnerable?
National pundits agree that U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin faces a tough challenge in his rematch with former Sen. Russ Feingold.
Now Sabato’s Crystal Ball from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, is going a step further. The website says Johnson is the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbent in 2016.
Feingold, the former three-term Democrat from Middleton, announced last week that he’s running to return to the Senate. He was ousted by Johnson, an Oshkosh Republican, in 2010.
In a Thursday post, the website’s managing editor, Kyle Kondik, said he’s moving the race to the “leans Democratic” column, making Johnson the underdog. Kondik concedes that’s unusual for an incumbent, especially this early in the cycle.
“But even members of Johnson’s party seriously question whether he has made the kind of ideological concessions in the Senate that could help him win under conditions that probably won’t be as ideal as they were for him in 2010,” Kondik wrote.