When a heckler briefly broke into his speech this evening, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had a ready comeback.
Walker joked that the man must be a union activist who followed him from Wisconsin to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, where the Republican governor was speaking outside Washington, D.C.
Then he added, to hearty applause, “those voices can’t drown out the voices of hard-working taxpayers.”
That theme—that Walker has prevailed against public employee unions and other opponents to fight for Wisconsin taxpayers—ran throughout his 15-minute speech to CPAC.
At another point, Walker suggested that if he “can take on 100,000 protesters,” he would be up to the domestic and foreign policy challenges of the presidency.
Most of the likeliest Republican candidates for president were scheduled to speak today or tomorrow at this largest annual gathering of conservative activists, which runs through Saturday at the Gaylord Resort and Conference Center in National Harbor, Md.
In recent weeks Walker has been rising in the early polls tracking prospective GOP candidates in 2016.
“If you want to live the American dream, we’re going to make it as easy as possible to do.”-@GovWalker at #CPAC2015
He already had become more popular with conservatives by soundly winning a second term last year after having prevailed in an earlier recall election pushed by public employee unions angry with the way the governor chose to rein in government spending by ending collective bargaining.
Walker, pacing the CPAC stage in shirtsleeves and tie, garnered a standing ovation after repeating many of the points of his attention-grabbing speech early this month at an Iowa forum:
On his watch, he said, Wisconsin income taxes are lower, employment is up. He spearheaded pension and lawsuit reforms. He defunded Planned Parenthood abortion clinics. He pushed through concealed carry and voter ID legislation. And he is backing a right-to-work bill that would allow Wisconsin workers to choose whether to pay union dues.
By contrast, Walker told the vocally disapproving crowd, “we have a president who thinks we grow the economy by growing Washington” and “measures success by how many are dependent on government,” a leader who doesn’t see that “radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to our way of life” and doesn’t “take the fight to them.”
Walker said analysis of his most recent electoral win in Wisconsin shows that he did well with young people, who make up a big chunk of the CPAC crowd.
“They want us to take the power out of Washington,” he said, adding:
Our young leaders understand the need to build the economy from the ground up. … If you want to start a business, you shouldn’t have to wait; we should get government out of the way. If you want to live the American dream, we’re going to make it as easy as possible to do.
Mandating increases in the minimum wage isn’t an economic solution, but creating better jobs is, Walker said in response to one of several questions. “I’ll let the left worry about how low they want people to be paid,” he said.
The governor emphasized that he hasn’t decided whether to run for president.
As some in the crowd chanted “Run, Scott, run,” he added with a rhetorical wink: “I’ve run three times in the last four years, so I’m getting pretty used to it.”