NOVI, Michigan – Addressing a county GOP event just outside Detroit on Monday evening, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker painted himself as an every-man conservative, capable of retaking the White House on behalf of Midwesterners like himself.
“If we stand united here in Michigan, across the Midwest, and across the country, I have no doubt we can reclaim the country,” he thundered to roughly one thousand Republicans at a $400-a-seat fundraiser dinner. The Republican has launched a PAC to explore a presidential run and has spent quite a bit of time in early-voting states, but hasn't yet announced an official bid.
"The path for a Republican to win the presidency comes through the Midwest."'
Michigan has an early primary – it’s scheduled for March 8 – and it’s a regular stop for likely and declared presidential candidates, but it's particularly important to Walker.
"The path for a Republican to win the presidency comes through the Midwest. It comes from Iowa and Wisconsin and Michigan and Ohio and we're even going to include Pennsylvania because they're part of the Big Ten," Walker told Bloomberg last month.
Michigan is an important source of presidential fundraising, with residents in the state having donated more than $16 million to presidential candidates in 2012, in addition to millions in PAC donations, according to the Detroit Free Press. In his attempt to win Michigan's hearts and minds, Walker aimed to convey his folksy Midwestern demeanor, history of union busting, and survival amid a brutal recall election as he sought to appeal to Great Lakes State voters and donors.
In his 40-minute address, Walker touted right-to-work policies, his battle against the teachers' unions, and voter ID laws in Wisconsin.
“I say all these things not to brag … I tell these stories because I think it’s important to tell Americans there’s hope,” he said. “There’s hope, in large part, because we’ve seen the transformation that’s happened in states when we put common sense Republican reforms in place!”
Walker spoke again about shopping at Kohl’s -- and hunting for the best discount -- and flipping burgers as a young person, as he worked to paint himself as an ordinary, middle class Republican who understands the American Dream and could bring Midwestern conservatism to the White House.
“The changes we’ve made in Michigan and Wisconsin and Ohio ... I believe we can do that in Washington with a new House and Senate and eventually a new president," he said.
Walker also repeatedly took joking shots at Rep. Paul Ryan, portraying him as a less successful Wisconsin Republican. When chosen for the 2012 Republican vice presidential ticket, Ryan called Walker for advice, he recalled. “You’ve done the closest thing to running for president, vice president with this recall election,” Walker recalled Ryan telling him.
Ryan flipped burgers not far from Walker’s own burger-flipping job, Walker later added, but wasn’t allowed to work in the front of the house because he didn’t have the same people skills, Walker joked.
"True story!" he said.