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Former Gov. Tommy Thompson says he would advise Gov. Scott Walker to get out to all 72 counties to reacquaint himself with Wisconsin.


Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said he doesn't think Scott Walker will run again for either governor or the presidency.

In an interview for "UpFront with Mike Gousha" that was broadcast Sunday, Thompson tapped on his experience running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination to analyze Walker's decision last Monday to drop out of the 2016 campaign.

In his first meeting with the media since his brief speech announcing the suspension of his campaign, Walker on Friday said he hadn't made a decision on running for reelection in 2018 and didn't address possible future presidential runs.

But Thompson said he thinks Walker is done with both.

"It's too hard," Thompson said. "It's too hard to run for president the first time. To have to bow out after 70 days after you announce — I give him a lot of credit. I want to thank him for running. I think it was good. But I can't envision a possibility for him running for reelection for governor or for presidency of the United States again."

Thompson, who was governor from 1987 to 2001 before becoming the Health and Human Services secretary in George W. Bush's first term as president, said he advised Walker on health care matters.

Walker unveiled his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act in a speech at a machine parts manufacturer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in August. Thompson said he disagreed with the location of the speech.

"I thought it was a mistake to go to Minnesota and give the speech, but he did," Thompson said. "He had a good proposal but it didn't get much play. And his labor union raising havoc at the federal level didn't get any play at all. And then the debate he didn't get any questions. So it was a tough time for Scott Walker."

Thompson also offered a defense for Walker's limited exposure in the two GOP presidential debates, saying Midwesterners "don't interrupt people and raise a ruckus when you don't get the questions."

The end of Walker's run, Thompson said, came when his poll numbers sank and his donors abandoned him.

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"And we all know that Scott is a poor man, and he just didn't want to go into debt, I'm sure of it," Thompson said. "And I'm sure his wife didn't, either."

Thompson's advice for Walker in returning to full-time work as governor was to first take two weeks off and go on vacation to "get your head free and clear of all the presidential debris.

"Then I would say to Scott Walker, go around to every county in this state, 72," Thompson said. "Set up shop in every single county, go out and say, 'I want to reacquaint myself to the state of Wisconsin, I want to talk to the people of the state and I want to be best governor I possibly can be.'"

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Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.