Criticized for not mixing it up in the first GOP presidential debate, Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday immediately went after GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
But after his early exchanges, he was not as prominent a factor in the rest of the nearly three-hour debate as the 11 candidates on stage jockeyed for time.
Getting a chance to weigh in on a question on whether the others trusted Trump with access to the nation’s nuclear codes, Walker jumped in to say the debate wasn’t addressing the real issues and immediately pivoted to Trump.
“Mr. Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now,” Walker said.
He went on to knock Trump, saying “we don’t know who you are or where you’re going” and “We need someone who can actually get the job done.”
Trump then returned fire on Walker, saying the state is losing $2.2 billion “right now. I would do so much better than that.”
Walker countered Trump was using Dem talking points and pivoted to knocking Trump for taking four projects into bankruptcy.
“You can’t take America into bankruptcy,” Walker said. “That’s what’s wrong with politics in Washington right now.”
That prompted another volley from Trump, who said when people found out the “true facts” about Walker’s record, the governor’s poll numbers tanked.
“When the people of Iowa found that out, I went to No. 1 and you went down the tubes,” Trump said.
Walker later took flak from Rand Paul and Jeb Bush over his call to cancel a state dinner with the Chinese president over cyberattacks on the U.S.
Paul, R-Ky., pointed out President Reagan continued to communicate with Russia during the Cold War and pivoted to Walker’s call to tear up President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran on the first day of his administration, saying the next president should first see if the country complied with the agreement.
Paul said he does not support the deal, but that doesn’t mean he would immediately cut it up.
“I don’t think we need to be rash. I don’t think we need to reckless, and I think we need to keep lines of communication open,” Paul said.
Walker countered if the U.S. were ever going to send a message to China, now is the time. He also defended his call to tear up the nuclear deal, saying it will put Iran closer to nuclear weapon.
“I would love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran,” Walker said.
Moderator Jake Tapper then turned to Bush, who said the U.S. needs to be strong against China and should impose stiffer sanctions than what the president has proposed. But canceling a dinner is “not going to change anything.”
“It’s not a strategy to tear up an agreement,” Bush said. “A strategy would be what are we doing to do about Iran?”
Though Walker mixed it up early in the nearly three-hour debate, the 11 candidates on the stage meant he also went long periods without getting involved in the discussion. One tally of the talking times for each candidate had Walker last at 8 minutes, 29 seconds. By comparison, Trump was at 18:29.
After a series of volleys about Planned Parenthood, Walker jumped in to turn the discussion to a shot at GOP leaders in Washington, D.C., saying Republicans are frustrated because they don’t understand why legislation can’t pass to defund Planned Parenthood. He then called on Republicans to ignore the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate.
“Pass it with 51 votes, put it on the desk of the president and go forward and actually make a point,” Walker said.
Walker then went more than a half hour before getting a chance to chime in again after Tapper asked about the guv’s comments that talk of raising the minimum wage was “lame.”
Walker turned it into an answer about cutting taxes, reforming the tax code, providing a better education system and his pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Tapper said Walker didn’t answer the question and went to Ben Carson. But Walker butted in after Carson’s answer to insist he had addressed the question. The guv said Hillary Clinton’s answer to growing the economy is increasing the minimum wage.
“I don’t want to argue about how low things are going to be,” Walker said. “I want to talk about how do we lift up everyone in America.”
Walker also jumped in after Bush defended his brother’s handling of national security following a knock from Trump.
As Bush said his brother kept the country safe, Trump chimed in, “I don’t know. Do you feel safe right now? I don’t feel so safe.”
Walker cut in, “It’s not because of George W. Bush. It’s because of Barack Obama.”
Walker then said it was an issue of leadership, saying he didn’t back down when he faced 100,000 protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol, when he and his family faced death threats or when opponents made him the “No. 1 target” last year.
He also jumped in as others discussed climate change, saying rules proposed by the EPA would cost Wisconsin thousands of manufacturing jobs.
During a series of lighthearted questions, Walker, who worked for the Red Cross briefly after leaving Marquette, said he’d put the organization’s founder Clara Barton on the $10 bill and said he’d prefer his code name if elected president to be “Harley” for his love of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Tapper closed the debate by asking the candidates what the world would look like after their presidency, noting the Air Force One behind them was the one that carried Reagan as president.
Walker, who has seen his own survey numbers drop, noted Reagan trailed in the polls ahead of his landslide 1980 election. Walker then said Americans need to live in a world where their children are free from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, everyone can live a piece of the American dream, and the federal government is not too big to fail, but “small enough to succeed.”
He then pivoted to his fight against “big-government union bosses” and special interests.
“I won’t back down any any day, any way, any how,” Walker said. “I‘ll fight and win for you and your families every single day I’m in office.”
-- By JR Ross