When Gov. Scott Walker launched his re-election campaign, he didn’t mention Foxconn by name, and people noticed.
But when he appeared on the political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha” on Sunday, Foxconn took up a lot of air time. Walker repeated his earlier explanation for not emphasizing the deal in his campaign announcement: It’s just part of his economic agenda, which includes strengthening small and large business alike, he said.
“Am I pleased with it? Yeah. … But is this the sole reason to vote for me for re-election? No. I’ve got plenty of other reasons,” he said.
Walker talked about some of those reasons on the show, as well as lessons from last week's elections around the country, his Democratic challengers, the Roy Moore scandal and whether he'll "embrace" Trump during the 2018 race.
Walker said that the deal, signed last week Friday, was good news for everyone in the state, not just Mount Pleasant, where the factory will be built. Construction companies from around the state will be involved, and Foxconn will eventually do “about $1.4 billion of business with Wisconsin-based companies.”
Plus, a deal like Foxconn should attract more business to the state, he said.
“Just the fact that a world class-class company could have gone to anywhere in the world ... and picked Wisconsin, helps us make the case for bigger, smaller companies alike,” he said.
Walker said he expects the Foxconn plan to increase in popularity over time as citizens see their neighbors work to build and supply the plant, and as “they see the benefit to the economy overall.”
To cynics of the deal, some of whom, he said, are “attempting to run for governor on the other side,” he challenged them to think about the consequences of backing out of the done deal.
“Are you going to pull the contract? Because what kind of message would that send to any other employer in this world about coming to Wisconsin?” he said.
But Walker seemed unsurprised that critics would “hit him really hard” on the issue, as host Mike Gousha put it.
“I would. If I was the opposition, if I looked at something this big, you’d have to throw everything you could hoping to God that somehow it would push it back,” Walker said.
He denied, as critics have said, that the deal is a “hail mary” after slow job growth and failure to live up to his promise of creating 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term as governor. He said the real “hail mary” came from critics who wanted to discredit his accomplishments, like the unemployment rate, which has been at a low of just over 3 percent.
THE 2018 RACE
Talking about his own upcoming election, Walker repeated what he’s said before: he’s not concerned about the wide field of potential Democratic candidates, who are “all the same” to him, but more concerned about the “outside money” backing them, from funders like the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and the Service Employees International Union.
“But you’re not going to be hurting for money,” Gousha said.
Walker said that there are 36 races for governor next year, 26 of which are for seats currently held by Republicans.
“I think I’m going to be left pretty much on my own to raise money here in the state of Wisconsin,” he said, which is why his campaign is focusing on raising “an army of grassroots volunteers.”
Asked about what lessons he could learn from last week’s elections, which resulted in Democratic governors in New Jersey and Virginia, Walker said that for the last 16 races for governor between the two states, they had voted 15 times for a governor from the opposite party of the president.
But Walker said there were lessons to be learned from the high voter turnout, particularly in northern Virginia.
“Turnout is going to matter and for a Republican like me to win, I need to win not just Republican, I need heavy turnout amongst independents,” he said.
After Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, lost, Trump attributed his loss to the fact he “worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” in a tweet.
Gousha asked whether Walker would embrace Trump.
Walkers said he would stick with his current strategy: aligning with Trump on “things that are good for Wisconsin and not on things that aren’t.”
He said he would give Trump credit when it was due, pointing to the Foxconn deal and saying Trump was the reason the deal came to the U.S. But when he disagreed with Trump, like when Trump’s budget cut funding for the Great Lakes, he said he “went right to the Congress and said, ‘I disagree with the president's budget.’”
Gousha said that clearly, Democrats think identifying Walker as a “close ally of the president” will hurt him in the election.
“I think that insults voters in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “Our voters are smart. They’re not going to be fooled into thinking that a governor's race has something to do with the federal elections.”
Gousha also asked about Roy Moore, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama who is facing allegations that he started relationships and initiated sexual contact with girls, one who was 14 at the time. Walker said Moore should step down if the accusations against him are true. He talked about his own experience facing a rumor right before his recall election that he had fathered a child and abandoned the mother while in college.
“But you look at things like that that come out at the last minute and you think, well of course that wasn’t true … So I don’t know if (the Moore story) is true, but if it is, obviously he should step aside,” he said.
Gousha noted that other Republicans, like John McCain and Mitt Romney, had called for Moore to step aside, without adding the “if it’s true” qualifier.
“Maybe they’ve looked at the details more,” Walker said. “I’m more focused on Wisconsin … I don’t know enough of the details to know.”