Scott Walker found his stride in a rowdy Conservative Polical Action Conference crowd Thursday during a speech aggressively touting his record as Wisconsin governor to offer evidence for why he's ready to take on the White House in 2016.
"If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it across America," Walker said.
After refusing to answer questions about whether President Obama was Christian and declining to clearly outline his position on evolution in recent weeks, Walker did not shy away from some contentious social issues, such as abortion, that have become stumbling blocks for him. Before an eager crowd, Walker continued his campaign to prove he is both pragmatic and conservative enough to win the Republican presidential nomination. He mentioned lower property taxes, the expansion of Second Amendment rights, and defunding Planned Parenthood—all to prove that he can "fight and win" in Wisconsin, a state where a Republican presidential candidate has not won for 30 years.
The crowd ate up Walker's one-liners as he made the case that it was time for Washington to get off the backs of the taxpayer. He called D.C. "68 square miles surrounded by reality."
"Here in America there is a reason we celebrate the Fourth of July and not April 15th," Walker said. "Because in America, we celebrate our independence from the government, not our dependence on it."
Walker got an unexpected opportunity to flex his legendary anti-union muscles on stage when protesters interrupted his speech by shouting from the crowd.
"Those voices cannot drown out the millions of Americans who want us to stand up for the hardworking taxpayers," Walker said to the protesters.
While former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to struggle at CPAC to escape the tag of "moderate" and win over social conservatives, Walker has managed to use his union-busting and budget-slashing reputation to win early approval from Republicans across the spectrum.
Walker has enjoyed a strong entry into the invisible 2016 presidential primary, leading in a poll in Iowa this week and occupying the rare space between the tea party and the establishment.
At CPAC, Walker proved he can comfortably walk that tightrope. During his question and answer session, the audience erupted into cheers of "run Scott run."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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