Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) became the first US governor to keep his seat in a recall election. The battle was triggered by Governor Walker's efforts to restrict public workers' collective bargaining rights, and his victory has made him a star in Republican circles. He was the guest at the June 14 Monitor breakfast in Washington.
The implications of his recall victory despite major spending by labor unions:
"I have read a lot of commentaries on our victory that I think overstate it in either direction. There are people who overstate it on the left who say this has no impact, or it was all about money, and I think that's completely wrong.... There are people on the right who think that this means that every Republican is going to win and that you can apply it in every state and every jurisdiction.... The truth is somewhere in between."
What the recall victory means for public unions:
"We open the door, not just in elections but more importantly for both state and local government leaders to say ... maybe we can consider making some of these sorts of changes and realize if we do, the groups that before everybody thought were going to take you out didn't do it.… [T]he kind of bullying tactics that were used before just aren't going to work because people realize you can stand up."
What he would do differently after the recall experience:
"My problem, I was so eager to fix [the state's budget woes], I fixed [rather] than talked about it…. [M]ost politicians talk about it and never fix it. In the future, what I have learned is I am going to do both."
Whether his recall win helps Mitt Romney's bid to capture Wisconsin in November:
"If [former] Governor Romney looks at Wisconsin and thinks he can win just because I have an (R) next to my name and he has an (R) next to his name, if voters see that as just about being a Republican, it is not enough to win Wisconsin. The way he wins is if voters, instead of just seeing that (R) and thinking Republican, think of reformer – here is a candidate who has a clear, bold plan to take on the economic and fiscal crisis our country faces. I think he's got a shot."
The Romney candidacy around the nation:
"I don't know that voters are there yet with Governor Romney.... It doesn't mean he hasn't talked about it. It doesn't mean he hasn't thought about it. But I think he's got to have a simple message of not only why we need to replace the current occupant of the White House, but also why he would be better."
Whether he would support a deal that gave $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases:
"I just don't believe that the problem in government is that we don't tax enough.... It's not only that we don't control our spending enough, we don't use our resources appropriately.... There's also not enough out there that helps the private sector stimulate growth.... I think that's one of the big things ... that's missing in that equation."
The need for candor from politicians:
"Politics is the only profession [where] you get called courageous just by keeping [your] word."