Scott Walker is widely considered one of the GOP’s presidential hopefuls. But before the Wisconsin governor can run for president in 2016, he needs to win his bid for reelection in 2014 -- and that means getting past his Democratic challenger, Mary Burke.
Burke, the first woman nominated for governor in Wisconsin by a major political party and a former executive of her family’s successful business, Trek Bicycles, is proving to be a formidable obstacle. The most recent polling shows the partisan rivals locked in a dead heat.
In the contentious campaign between Walker and Burke, job creation in the Dairy Land is ground zero.
One of Walker’s main lines of attack against Burke has been to criticize her family’s bike business for outsourcing 99 percent of its production overseas, primarily to China -- a strategy that harkens back to the Obama campaign’s 2012 tactic to counter Mitt Romney’s business success.
“What surprises me about it is that a sitting governor would drag a great Wisconsin home-grown company through the mud for politics,” Burke told “Top Line” in a recent interview. “Trek employs nearly a thousand people in Wisconsin; in addition to that, it buys goods and services from other Wisconsin businesses, which creates more good-paying jobs in the state.”
When it comes to job creation, Burke has her own line of attack against Walker.
“Under Scott Walker, we're dead last in the Midwest in terms of job creation,” Burke said, a point she makes frequently. “I'm running to in order to make sure that we are able to move Wisconsin forward and lead the country instead of lagging the country,” she later added.
Though Burke said she isn’t running “to carry the flag for women,” despite being the state’s first woman of a major party to be nominated for governor, she believes Walker has been waging a war on women.
“One of the first things that he did was repeal our equal pay protections, and then, throughout the years, we have now seen more attacks on women's choice issues from mandatory ultrasounds to waiting periods,” Burke said. “These are all things that are messing with women's right to make our own health care choices.”
On the topic of health care -- and specifically the Affordable Care Act -- Burke has a widely divergent perspective from Walker, who declined to create a state-run exchange and turned down additional Medicare and Medicaid funding from the federal government.
Burke says that by declining federal money for Medicaid expansion, Walker has put politics ahead of common sense.
“As I travel around the state it's one of the biggest issues that I hear, and unfortunately, I hear stories of people … entrepreneurs with families, two kids, and they're going without health insurance right now -- that's a real problem,” she said. “So, what Scott Walker has done by turning down the Medicaid expansion is actually making health care more expensive in Wisconsin and throwing people off of their health care.”
For more of the interview with Burke, and to hear whether she thinks Walker should pledge to voters not to run for president if he wins re-election, check out this episode of “Top Line.”
ABC News’ John Parkinson, Alisa Wiersema, Alexandra Dukakis, Gary Westphalen, Tom Thornton, Chris Carlson and Nick Greiner contributed to this episode.