Gov. Scott Walker sought Thursday night to focus his attacks on Hillary Clinton during the first GOP presidential debate while he also defended his record on job creation and abortion.
Walker largely avoiding mixing it up with the nine other GOP candidates on the stage or interjecting while others were speaking.
But at one point he pushed moderator Bret Baier for an opening to speak following an answer from Donald Trump that mentioned Clinton.
Walker said Republicans should be spending a lot of time on Clinton, because “Everywhere in the world that Hillary Clinton touched is more messed up today than before she and the president took office.” The line, which he regularly uses in his stump speech, drew applause from the audience.
The guv received one of his best responses of the night when asked how he would respond if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s took actions to destabilize NATO allies such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Walker used the question to get in another dig on Clinton, noting a recent cyberattack by Russia.
“It’s sad to think right now but probably the Russian and Chinese government know more about Hillary Clinton’s email server than do the members of the United States Congress, and that has put our national security at risk,” Walker said.
Walker went on to pledge he would send weapons to Ukraine, put forces on the eastern borders of Poland and the Baltic nations, and restore a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Though Walker was No. 3 in the average of polls that was used to determine who would participate in Thursday’s debate, he was often not the focus of the questions. He also often kept his answers short. The moderators had a bell they would ring if a candidate went over the approved time. While others often went over their time limits, Walker did not. A tally kept by NPR showed Walker was ninth in terms of the amount of time he spent talking at 5 minutes, 43 seconds. Donald Trump was first at 10:30.
It was 15 minutes into the debate before he was asked his first question, and the moderators came back to Walker roughly every 15 minutes. That included a question from moderator Chris Wallace about Walker’s job creation record in Wisconsin. Wallace pointed out Walker promised 250,000 jobs in his first term, but barely added half of that in his first term while the state ranked 35th in job growth.
Walker countered unemployment is down in Wisconsin to 4.6 percent compared to 8 percent when he took office, the state has more than made up the jobs it lost during the recession and the rate of those in the workforce is higher in the state than it is nationally.
He also pivoted to a favorite line that people like Clinton believe in growing the economy by growing Washington.
“The voters in Wisconsin elected me last year for a third time because they wanted someone who aimed high, not aimed low,” Walker said of his jobs pledge.
Walker also turned a question about his pledge to tear up a deal negotiated with Iran on “day one” of his potential presidency into an dig at Clinton.
As he’s said before, Walker said Iran is not a place “we should be doing business with,” pledging to repeal the deal, reinstate sanctions, add more and then persuade allies to do the same.
“It’s yet another example of the failed foreign policy of the Obama-Clinton doctrine,” Walker said.
Walker was asked his first question 15 minutes into the debate as moderator Megyn Kelly asked the guv if he was too extreme on abortion to get elected. She noted Walker has indicated his opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest or to save the life of the mother. Kelly asked if he would let a mother die rather than have an abortion.
The guv responded he has always been pro-life, a position that he said is consistent with many Americans, and there are alternatives to protect the life of a mother and unborn children need protection. He said unlike Clinton and her “radical position” in support of Planned Parenthood, he defunded the group four years ago “long before these videos came out.”
“I have a position in line with everyday America,” Walker said.
Wallace pressed Walker on his reversal on comprehensive immigration reform, noting he had supported it from 2002 to 2013 before changing position. Wallace asked him to explain his change in position other than simply politics.
As he has before, Walker said he changed his mind after President Obama “messed up” the issue.
He said the country needs to secure the border, enforce the law, ensure there is no amnesty and prioritize American families and their wages in immigration policies.
“I actually listened to the American people,” Walker said. “I think people across America want a leader who’s going to listen to them.”
Walker deflected a question about the potential to gain new partners in the Arab world, instead saying the country needs to focus on providing aid to those it already has, singling out Egypt and the Saudi Arabians. He said he met with Saudi leaders and those from the United Arab Emirates, who told them American is neglecting its relationships.
“We are leading from behind under the Obama-Clinton doctrine,” he said.
He also did not directly answer a question about the assertion that overly aggressive officers targeting black Americans was the “civil rights issue of our time” and whether he planned to do anything to address it.
Walker mentioned Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a frequent guest on Fox News, and focused his answer on proper training on the use of force while supporting those in uniform. For those officers who don’t live up to the expected standards, there should be consequences “to show we treat everyone the same here in America.”
The last question posed to Walker was about any direction he has received from God. Walker said he hasn’t been given a list of commandments for his first day in office, but God calls on people to follow his will and ultimately that’s what he will try to do.
He used the question to mention the challenges he took on when 100,000 people showed up to protest in and around the state Capitol in 2011 over his collective bargaining changes.
“It wasn’t just how I took on those political battles. It was ultimately how I acted, not responding in kind, not lashing out, but just being decent going forward and living my life in a way that would be a testimony to him and his faith, and our faith,” Walker said.
He used his closing statement to portray himself as an average guy with a wife, two kids and a Harley-Davidson. Walker said he won in Wisconsin after taking on “big government union bosses,” balanced the budget, cut taxes and turned around the state with “big, bold reforms.”
“It wasn’t too late for Wisconsin, and it’s not too late for America,” Walker said. “That’s why I ask for your vote.”
-- By JR Ross