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Scott Walker: What's next for GOP's new supernova?

After the high-stakes recall election, national Republicans assess the Scott Walker effect, ranging from his policies to the prospect that he might appear on a Romney ticket.

By Staff writer / June 7, 2012

Gov. Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin holds his first cabinet meeting at the State Capitol Wednesday in Madison, Wis., after beating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a recall election. Governor Walker is flanked by Chief of Staff Eric Schutt (l) and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

Andy Manis/AP

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is promising unity in his state following a big win in a contentious recall election this week, as national Republicans assess the impact that a charismatic, seemingly unflappable young governor – an instant star – could have on GOP party fortunes.

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“He automatically became one of the most sought-after speakers after Tuesday," says Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, a leading conservative activist and think tank in Washington. "He’s an incredibly valuable resource to the party, the Mitt Romney campaign, and to our future.”

Governor Walker – the first governor in US history to beat a recall campaign – is clearly an overnight sensation for the GOP, having pushed through hard-nosed reforms that eliminated the state’s $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes or requiring massive layoffs. He campaigned on a platform of making tough decisions on how government is structured, including retooling the relationship between the state and public sector unions.

Besides eliminating collective bargaining rights for most public employees, he reduced take-home pay to cover pension contributions, and required higher health insurance premiums and co-pays – the kind of fiscal rejiggering the national party says is crucial to finally getting serious about ballooning deficits and resetting mismanaged spending priorities.

Mr. Cardenas says conservatives appreciate his success, because they see it emboldening executives in all branches of government – from town mayors to state leaders – to confront budget reform on similar terms.

“They’ll say 'if Scott Walker can do it, I can do it’ to bring fiscal sanity to these communities. The Scott Walker race just added five exclamation points to this trend,” Cardenas says.

No one but Walker knows the extent of his ambition outside Wisconsin. Since Tuesday’s victory, he says his priority is encouraging bipartisanship among the divided House and Senate in his state, including inviting everyone to a beer and brat summit this summer.

“The ball is in his court,” says Geoffrey Peterson, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire. “How far he decides he wants to move up in his party, either as vice president or run for a Senate seat, I think it’s certainly in the cards. He’ll certainly will get the support of the party"

Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has yet to announce a running mate, which makes it tempting to speculate on Walker’s chances of getting the nod.

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