Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, fresh off his third victory in four years, dropped some heavy hints about running for president in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.
Asked by moderator Chuck Todd about a pledge Walker made in October to serve his four-year term, Walker, a Republican, hedged. "I said my plan was for four years. I've got a plan to keep going for the next four years. But, you know, certainly I care deeply about not only my state, but my country," Walker said. "We'll see what the future holds."
Polls had shown a close race between Walker and businesswoman Mary Burke this year, raising Democrats' hopes that they could take out a champion of conservatism, but Walker won with 52.3% of the vote. He also survived a recall election in 2012.
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Todd asked Walker if he would defer to Congressman and fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan, who was their party's vice presidential nominee in 2012.
"I love Paul Ryan. I've said many times before I'd be the president of Paul Ryan fan club," said Walker. But there is a limit to his love, apparently: "But I do think if we're going to beat Hillary Clinton in this next election, we've got to have a message that says, 'Hillary Clinton is all about Washington.' I think in many ways, she was the big loser on Tuesday because she embodies everything that's wrong with Washington." Pressed by Todd to spell out whether or not that meant he wouldn't defer to Ryan, Walker said, "Paul Ryan may be the only exception to that rule. But overall, I think governors make much better presidents than members of Congress."
"Overall, I think governors make much better presidents than members of Congress."'
But for all of the talk of "executive experience," Todd pointed to indicators suggesting that Walker's economic record isn't all that great. "When it comes to wage growth, it's below the national average, Wisconsin is. When it comes to job growth, it's below the national average. And your tax cut policy has created a larger deficit, a $1.8 billion deficit hole that you're going to have to plug next year. And part of it is because state revenues didn't come in as expected. Is it possible that the idea of cutting taxes as a way to create jobs and assimilate the economy just isn't working in Wisconsin?"
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Walker disputed that, claiming that the deficit hole was temporary pending more revenues and budget cuts, and adding, "So the simple answer is, you compare us to Illinois where they raise taxes, we lower taxes by $2 billion in property and income, and we had a much, much lower unemployment rate and a much better economy than they do. Thank God they elected [Republican] Bruce Rauner, because that'll help turn things around down there, just like we have in Wisconsin."
Walker also defended his decision to refuse the federal Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. A nonpartisan report found Wisconsin would have saved $206 million over two years and $500 million over three and a half years had it expanded Medicaid, covering over 80,000 more people.
Walker suggested the federal government would renege on its obligations. "I mean, think about it. States that have taken the Medicaid expansion are betting on the fact that the Congress and the president, who can't deal with the $17 trillion are going to magically somehow come up with new money. They haven't paid that money for Medicaid even to the states as we speak," he said, adding, "Relying on the federal government for your balancing a budget is really I think a fool's bet."
The law says that the federal government will pay 100% of the cost of new Medicaid enrollees until 2016, then gradually decreasing to 90% of the cost in 2020. Only repeal, the dear wish of Republicans, would stop that money from coming.