INAUGURAL BALL 1 (copy)

Gov. Scott Walker and his wife, Tonette, during the 2015 Inaugural Ball. Insiders and obvservers say the first lady will be an asset to Team Walker during her husband's bid for the presidency.

MICHELLE STOCKER

Unless you live on the moon, you've heard a lot about Scott Walker's stunning rise to the top of the 2016 GOP presidential field.

But you probably haven't heard a lot about Tonette — yet.

In a story posted Sunday in the conservative-leaning news site The Hill, the Wisconsin governor's associates and political observers say Tonette Walker is poised to take a major role in her husband's still unannounced but ever-so-real campaign for the presidency.

"Those that know the Walker family describe Tonette as 'tournament-tested' and 'unflappable,' and say the political and personal travails she has faced will leave her well-equipped to deal with the rigors of national campaign and the next-level close-up she’ll get," writes The Hill's Jonathan Easley.

The story quotes Marquette University Law School pollster Charles Franklin saying that Walker is paving the way for Tonette's role by "weaving her into his biography on the campaign trail.”

That includes the now famous line Walker included in his speech at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Summit earlier this year about a threat to "gut my wife like a deer” in response to his successful effort to end collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

The account left the audience gasping, but the Wisconsin State Journal later reported that no record of the threat was ever made, although other threats against Walker and his family were documented. Capitol Police Chief David Erwin, then a captain in the governor's Dignitary Protection Unit, told the paper in an email, "I do recall showing the Governor the threat referenced in your questions.”

The Hill story points to Tonette's compelling personal story as a vehicle for connecting with voters. Eleven years Walker's senior, Tonette grew up poor and was a childless widow who had given up ever getting re-married, according to a 2014 speech quoted in The Hill story.

But that changed when she met the future governor.

"The couple’s first chapter began with a meet-cute on karaoke night at a barbecue joint in Wauwatosa," writes Easley. "They frequently recount how Scott passed Tonette a napkin with a handwritten note and his phone number on it, and the persistence he displayed in courting her through a whirlwind romance that led to their marriage in 1993. Two sons followed shortly after."

Tonette has frequently taken to the stage to introduce her husband at events, including during his three campaigns for governor.

"She was a prominent part of the recall election and all the elections, even giving speeches on her own, and being very vocal for her husband, particularly at a time when it would have been easier for her to be a shrinking violet,” the story quotes a person identified as a "close advisor." 

The campaign duties were "evidence that Scott trusts her as an independent surrogate on the stump, a role she could potentially fill in a presidential campaign," writes Easley.

“You’re going to hear the exact same thing coming from both of them,” he quotes a former campaign aide as saying. 

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