DES MOINES, Iowa – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker brought a new tone and new targets to the campaign trail this week now that his Iowa lead has dissipated.
Walker, who had resisted talking about Donald Trump, adjusted his tactics to more directly appeal to voters swayed by outsider candidates like the billionaire GOP frontrunner.
“I think it’s a reflection of people that are extremely frustrated with Washington,” Walker said in an interview with NBC News. “I think it’s just important for us to identify that and acknowledge that and we share that frustration.”
But Walker also predicted the strength Trump shows in polling could be more a sign of protest than genuine support. “I talk to Americans all across the country who say I may not end up voting for this candidate but I’m gonna say in polls that I’m for them because I’m tired of politicians in Washington not listening to me,” Walker said.
The second-term Republican governor who survived a recall election has spent his entire professional life in elective office but said he can still position himself for the anti-politician voter,
“It’s not about the job you’ve held, it’s about what you’ve done in that job that matters,” Walker said “People can identify that anger, but I think I’m the best candidate in the race to actually do something about it.”
A core of the Walker candidacy has been for him to become the figure who could be the eventual establishment choice while connecting the tea party and social conservative wings of the Republican party.
Walker, who has invoked the Reagan 11th commandment to “not speak ill of another Republican,” is now broadly hitting GOP power brokers in Washington. Walker said voters expected more: “They thought electing a Republican Senate and electing, continuing to have, a Republican House would mean that at least there’d be a bill on the president’s desk to repeal Obamacare. There’s not, and I think that part of the frustration.”
Born in Iowa and governing a neighboring state, Walker has been seen as a likely potential winner of the caucuses next February until Trump and Dr. Ben Carson began to catch fire in the Hawkeye state.
Walker recounted past election cycles where summer surge candidates flamed out. Walker suggested he is not panicked, “I think it’s still open, ” Walker said, “I think the key is staying power. You want to make sure you keep coming back over and over again.”
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com