Gov. Scott Walker was 800 miles from Madison, in a hotel conference room two blocks from the White House—a room filled with national reporters—after a week of interviews with national media outlets and about to embark on a nationwide book tour, when he made a declaration.
"I'm not focused on the national," the Wisconsin Republican said. "I'm focused on being governor."
The half-hearted disclaimer aside, it's clear from Walker's schedule, his book, and his turn on the national stage that he wants to be a part of the 2016 presidential conversation. Walker bragged about his ability to draw "Obama-Walker" voters, despite the ideological gulf between him and the president.
Best known for doing battle with unions in his home state and then becoming the first governor to beat back a recall, Walker said he and his party need to remain focused on fiscal and economic issues—the "bread and butter of what the party's about."
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Sure, he said he's "pro-life" and, "I don't apologize for that. But I don't focus on it. I don't obsess with it." He kept trying to steer the conversation to economic issues as reporters queried him on social ones, such as gay marriage.
"Without being insulting, but you kind of make my point about how media seem to be more obsessed with social issues than the average voters," Walker said at one point.
He brushed off 2016 talk at the same time as he said the perfect candidate would look, well, kind of like him.
"An ideal candidate to me would be a current or former governor," Walker said. "Just because I think governors have executive experience and, more importantly, I think there's a real sense across America that people want an outsider."
He notably drew an "exception" to this rule for home state Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential nominee. But that still leaves out many of the top tier of 2016 GOP contenders in the Senate, including Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.
Unlike the other Republican governor from a blue state being touted as presidential timber, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Walker still faces a tough reelection in 2014 ahead of any potential presidential run.
It's one of the chief reasons Walker must remain so cagey about 2016.
Correction: A previous version of this story misquoted Scott Walker as saying "An ideal candidate to me would be a current reformer governor." He said "An ideal candidate to me would be a current or former governor."
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