DES MOINES, Iowa — When Scott Walker takes the stage here with other potential Republican candidates for president Saturday, expect the Wisconsin governor to portray himself as a conservative reformer who can win tough fights.
Walker — probably best known for surviving a recall effort organized by liberals in 2012 and then winning re-election in 2014 — is one of several big name Republicans participating Saturday in the Iowa Freedom Summit.
The Wisconsin governor is expected to use Saturday’s speech as an opportunity to introduce himself to Iowa’s voters and try to gin up excitement about a possible presidential campaign. He will likely tout the conservative reforms he has signed into law while governor, including his fights with public sector unions and Planned Parenthood over the state budget.
Walker has not officially announced whether he will seek the presidency, but is sending signals that he’s serious about running. (He has said he won’t make a decision about a presidential campaign until after the budget process in Wisconsin, which means an announcement probably won’t come until sometime early this summer.)
But in the meantime, Walker’s inner circle is busy working to put in place the necessary infrastructure in the probable case he pulls the trigger on a run, sources tell The Daily Caller.
In recent weeks, Walker has made a number of staff hires, including former RNC political director Rick Wiley and veteran Iowa strategist David Polyansky. Wiley is expected to lead a presidential campaign, while Polyansky would be Walker’s top Iowa adviser.
Walker’s team is also working to fill a number of other top staff positions — including finance director — and expect to make some hiring announcements soon.
One insider told The Daily Caller that Walker will likely form some sort of new political action vehicle in the near future, which he will use to travel the country ahead of a possible run.
Walker isn’t as well-known some other potential Republicans who might run, but his team is busy articulating to donors how they think he could be formidable should he enter the race.
Here’s their thinking: With the number of Republicans likely to run in 2016, candidates will likely be viewed as part of one of three camps: the establishment (Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie); social conservatives (Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum); and grassroots (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul).
While most candidates will likely fit into one of those lanes, Walker supporters argue he is popular in all three. The argument goes that the establishment loves how Walker has won three statewide races in four years in a purple state and was a proven fundraiser in all those contests; social conservatives love that Walker, whose father was a Baptist preacher, is a credible voice on their issues; and tea partiers love that he’s fought tough battles and won them.
A recurring criticism of Walker is that he lacks the star power, or charisma, that other candidates have. But his supporters downplay that, arguing Walker’s style continues to improve during public appearances and, most importantly, he isn’t lacking in terms of substance.
Others expected to address the conservative crowd, organized by Iowa Rep. Steve King, on Saturday include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum.