Gov. Scott Walker may have laid out his new re-election campaign theme at the state Republican convention in Milwaukee Saturday, but there weren't any big surprises in his message.
His speech repeated many of his recent themes: Democrats are fueled by anger and hate and Republicans need to “wake up” and respond with optimism to defeat them in the upcoming fall election.
On Sunday, Milwaukee talk show host Mike Gousha dug into Walker’s campaign statements on his show, “UpFront," talking about the Foxconn deal, the legalization of marijuana and what Walker calls liberal hatred.
Gousha challenged Walker’s main “wake up” premise, asking if Walker really believes that Republicans wouldn’t be “fired up and ready to go” for gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections in November. Gousha also asked what exactly Walker means when he cites liberal hatred.
Walker maintained that “a lot of voters, even in the middle, are somewhat complacent.” Hatred has been directed at the president and at himself for years, he said, and added that it’s been coming from “some of the most mild mannered candidates.”
“I’m used to it, I can take it, I can understand it, but they talk about being an idiot, being a moron … It’s not just, ‘Hey, I have a difference of opinion,’” Walker said.
He acknowledged that Democrats don’t have a monopoly on hate, but said he's calling on Republicans to respond to attacks from the left with optimism and the positive accomplishments of his party, he said. Earlier in the program, he listed some of those accomplishments, including the state’s low unemployment rate, freezing tuition in the UW System and lowering taxes.
On Saturday, Walker detailed everything he said would be lost if Democrats win in the fall elections, including the Foxconn factory deal in his list. Gousha asked Walker whether saying the 13,000 Foxconn jobs would be “gone” was meant as hyperbole.
Walker pointed to statements from Democratic candidates that they will try to get the state out of the deal, including state Rep. Dana Wachs’ promise that he will extricate the state if Foxconn in any way violates its end of the contract. That would have devastating effects on any other big businesses considering setting up in the state, Walker said.
“What other company in the world would consider coming to this state if that’s the kind of leadership that’s going to be in place?” he said.
Gousha asked him whether Foxconn officials have expressed concern about the governor’s office or Legislature changing hands to Democrats.
“They’re just confused, as you can imagine anyone would be from outside this state … To think, hey, we’re bringing all these jobs, all these states around the country were really pushing to get those jobs, why wouldn’t someone want those?” Walker said.
The answer, he said, was that criticism of the deal is politically motivated, and pointed to benefits like $100 million dollars of construction subcontracts in the first phase of the project, with 98 percent to Wisconsin-based companies.
“If it was a year from now, you’d hear Democrats as well as Republicans saying, ‘This is amazing, the biggest economic development project in the history of the state,’” Walker said.
Asked to comment on the criticism that Foxconn represents big dollars that could be better spent elsewhere, like education or roads, Walker said that the state has invested additional money in public schools, the UW System and technical colleges.
“I look at it and say, when (Democrats) were in charge eight years ago, why didn’t they do it? … They cut money to public education … they chose to raise taxes, raid from the transportation fund, push forward a $3.6 billion budget deficit, that's what we’ve inherited. That’s what happened the last time Democrats were in charge of state government,” he said.
Walker called the potential lawsuit from the attorney general of Illinois — who has said she will sue the EPA for changing ozone rules in the Foxconn area in a way that she says will have “negative impacts” on public health — “frivolous” and “ridiculous,” and expressed no doubt that the case will be thrown out, vowing the state will push back against it.
Many Democratic candidates for governor have spoken in favor of legal medical and recreational marijuana for the state. Walker said law enforcement and other drug crisis workers around Wisconsin warn him against this, calling marijuana a gateway drug that “opens the door to other problems they see escalating across the state.”
On the challenges facing Milwaukee Public Schools, like teacher discontent and fiscal problems, Walker said state funding is not the problem, pointing to hundreds of additional dollars per student. He said the superintendent has failed to take charge of failing schools, though he has the legal authority to do so, saying the state “may have to look beyond that,” perhaps to “changing boundaries.”