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 told POLITICO at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he spoke Saturday morning.
The governor’s 15-minute speech focused on his efforts to end what he called a culture of government dependency, such as requiring able-bodied adults to look for work or enroll in job training in order to receive food stamps.
“This president and his allies measure success in government by how many people are dependent on the government. We measure success in government by just the opposite: by how many people are no longer dependent on the government,” Walker said to rousing applause. “Because we understand in this country that the American dream is not to grow up one day and depend on the American government, it’s about empowering people through the dignity of work.”
In the interview Friday, the governor noted that he ran for Milwaukee County executive during his state legislative term and then sought the governorship in the midst of his tenure as county executive. Walker, though, said that he wasn’t just “being glib” when he professed his love for his current job in the fashion that is typical for presidential hopefuls.
“I had to work pretty damn hard to be governor twice,” he said with a smile, alluding to both his hard-fought 2010 election and the even tougher recall he survived last year.
Walker didn’t dispute that his controversial effort to rein in public employee unions had made him a polarizing figure, but predicted he could improve his image with additional achievements.
“Results,” he said, when asked how he could bolster his standing with voters. “You get results. To me, results trump anything.”
He said his focus would be chiefly in the fiscal sphere and that he wanted to improve Wisconsin’s economy, reform state government and continue his education reforms.
Walker has already won praise from national conservatives. Citing the governor’s Medicaid plan, which rejects the federal expansion but would cover more Wisconsinites through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, and his push for tax reductions and additional welfare restrictions, The Weekly Standard wrote last month that “Walker may be the closest thing to the anti-Obama that exists in a state capitol today.”