Iowans consider 2016 Walker candidacy

Walker considering whether to run
Iowans consider 2016 Walker candidacy

High above downtown Des Moines, a group of young Republicans gathered over lunch for the monthly meeting of the “Bull Moose Club” spent an afternoon digesting the results of this month’s election.

But that doesn’t mean their minds aren’t on the next one in 2016.

“Who would I vote for?” Iowa Republican Joe Stopulos asked incredulously. “It’s 2014 and we just got done with a Senate race, my gosh it’s a little presumptive. Well no, I don’t know.”

When you start asking him about potential candidates, the Des Moines insurance broker is quick to drop a name.

“I’m a fan of Scott Walker,” Stopulos said. “I went to Marquette when he was first running, so I have been following him for a while.”

Ask around the room and you’ll find he’s not the only one in the Des Moines crowd.

“For me absolutely,” attorney A.J. Krause said when asked about Walker. “He’s my favorite candidate right now.”

While the enthusiasm is clear, Iowa Republicans are also quick to mention other names, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

But Iowa GOP strategist Tim Albrecht said not to count the Wisconsin governor out.

“Governor Walker can do very well in Iowa,” Albrecht said. “He’s sort of a Midwestern folk hero right now because he was written off in three successive elections and most people thought he didn’t have a chance. And he won all three of them decisively.”

Beyond his wins in Wisconsin, Iowa Republicans are familiar with Walker’s most controversial moves with Act 10 and collective bargaining.

“The things he’s done in Wisconsin, the way he’s fought the unions, which is very difficult, that shows his ability to make changes,” Krause said.

But what one calls an asset, another may call a liability.

“As the weaknesses go, you have the scandals, the problems related to his opposition to Medicaid expansion and frankly he survived a recall, but the fact that there was a vigorous recall effort says that he’s not exactly a person who builds bridges,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan said. “In fact, he blows them up.”

Brennan questions Walker’s fundraising ability and said he’s much different than what Iowa Democrats will be looking for.

“Frankly I would be surprised if he would be the Republican nominee,” Brennan said.

Albrecht disagrees, but said Walker would have to start building relationships in Iowa, setting up his campaign in the next six to nine months, calling those donors and meeting with voters

“The old joke around here is ‘Who are you going to support in the caucus?’ and they say ‘Well, I like candidate X but I’ve only met him twice,'” Albrecht said. “So voters take their responsibility here very seriously.”

While all presidential futures start in Iowa, Walker, if he chooses to run, can say his truly did start in Iowa, in the small northeast town of Plainfield.

Plainfield is no political mecca, with less than 500 people calling the no-stoplight town home. Walker lived in Plainfield for a few years as a child before moving to Delavan, Wisconsin. His father was the pastor at the Baptist church and the Walker family lived in the house next door.

Don Schrage was the president of the bank in Plainfield and his son was also Walker’s classmate. While those years were long ago, he has a clear memory of Walker’s election as governor in 2010.

“The Walker name struck a bell with us and so we researched a bit and sure enough it was the Scott Walker that was in Plainfield when he was 9 or 10 years old,” Schrage said.

Schrage has been donating to Walker’s Wisconsin campaigns and now thinks he’d be a viable contender in 2016.

“He certainly would have to get to the caucus and do a lot of handshaking and door knocking and so on and so forth,” Schrage said. “But I think there’s still a great storyline there.”

The traces of Walker in Plainfield now are found at the local library where a boy in black-rimmed glasses looks out from the pages of 1970s yearbooks.

Schrage said his Plainfield connection could help him in 2016.

“I would certainly vote for him, I know that,” said Schrage. “And I think our whole family would.”

Walker has said he is considering whether to run, and will make a decision “if he feels a calling” to do the job.