Gov. Walker highlights executive experience to GOP donors
(CNN) — Touting his executive experience and Wisconsin’s success, it certainly sounded like he was running for national office. But Scott Walker wanted to make one thing clear Saturday: Anyone focused on 2016 has the wrong idea.
“Any Republican who’s talking about anything other than 2014 is doing a disservice both to the party and to the country,” he said.
The Wisconsin governor and potential presidential candidate was speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual spring leadership meeting in Las Vegas, where some of the party’s most influential donors and fundraisers meet to talk politics and policy.
The influential crowd draws some big political names, many of whom are considering a run at the White House. Along with Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addressed the conference.
Casino owner and mega Republican donor Sheldon Adelson is meeting with all of the presidential contenders, a source at the meeting told CNN. Adelson has spent tens of millions of dollars on political contributions.
Walker focused his speech on solutions the Republican Party can offer to problems facing the country.
“What voters in the middle want more than anything… is leadership. They want people to lead. They’re so cynical with politics today,” Walker said. “It’s a sad commentary where we’re at in American society that sometimes I get called courageous just because I kept my word. Everywhere else in life that’s expected, but somehow in politics, that’s exceptional.”
In particular, he praised the 29 Republican governors who, he says, have led the country on the road to recovery. Their success makes them better fit for the Oval Office, he said, adding that the next GOP presidential nominee must be someone “from outside Washington.”
“If we want to have a strong America, if we want to have a healthy economy, look to the states — because in the states we’re talking about growth and opportunity,” he said.
“We’re the ones at forefront of getting things done. We’re the ones who make things happen,” he said later.
Among those things, he cited turning a $3.6 billion budget deficit in Wisconsin into a near billion-dollar surplus, lowering the 9.2% unemployment rate by three points, and convincing people that the state is heading in the right direction: Ninety-five percent of Wisconsin business owners say so, he said.
“When you reform things, you make them more efficient, more effective, more accountable to the public,” Walker added, arguing the GOP cannot be the party of austerity or “less,” but of “more” — “more freedom, more opportunity, more prosperity.”
Walker also used the platform to talk foreign policy, keen to criticize President Barack Obama and express his concern that America was being weakened around the world.
Walker is up for re-election this fall after a bitter recall election in 2012. At the time, significant protests nearly shut down the state Capitol after Walker proposed a controversial bill that scaled back collective bargaining rights for most state workers and cut the education budget.
“Third time in four years running for governor – I’m getting pretty good at it,” he said to laughs.
CNN’s Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.