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Other view: National buzz bodes well for Wisconsin

2:54 PM, Apr. 9, 2013  |  Comments
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First it was Russ Feingold, the former U.S. senator, being touted as a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2008.

That same election cycle, former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson made a short-lived bid for the White House.

In 2012, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan became the first Wisconsin politician to run on a major party ticket in a presidential race. The Republican Party nominated him for vice president.

Now Gov. Scott Walker has joined Ryan in the spotlight for 2016. Both are being plugged as potential Republican nominees for the White House.

The presidential buzz is premature and at times distracting for Walker, who has served as governor for little more than two years. But mostly it's good for the state by reinforcing Walker's need for Wisconsin to do well.

Governors can't hide from their records. They're in charge. And Walker has struggled with his goal to dramatically boost state job numbers. So any talk of 2016 only adds pressure for positive results here at home.

More broadly, and regardless of politics, Wisconsin benefits just about any time one of its leaders from either major political party is promoted as presidential material. That's because the national platform helps our state have its say - and sway - in Washington, D.C.

The partisan squabbles get lots of attention. But often Wisconsin has a unified message to convey on regional issues such as farm policy, Great Lakes protection and SeniorCare.

Walker's national clout translates into a megaphone for arguing the case for his state. The governor makes regular appearances on national TV, for example, and serves on the executive committee of the National Governors Association.

Asked recently about criticism his focus has strayed to national ambitions, the governor gave a solid reply.

"If I continue to do a good job serving the people of Wisconsin - I make life better for the people of Wisconsin - people are going to continue to talk about that," he said of a possible presidential bid. "If I do a really crappy job as governor, nobody is going to talk about anything else in the future."

Some on the left will deny that anything Walker does is good for the state, just as some on the right will argue he's perfect. But most of sensible Wisconsin is somewhere in the middle. Walker has been bold yet divisive, and many of his policies still are playing out.

If Walker is serious about running for the GOP nomination in 2016, he may be tempted to pander to the national party's most conservative elements.

That would be wrong for Wisconsin.

The governor's re-election campaign next year should help keep him on task. And most governors moderate the longer they're in office.

At best, a Walker nomination and presidency is a long shot.

"I spent too much time working hard to be governor over the last two years - twice - not to focus on being governor," Walker said.

That's the right attitude.

- Wisconsin State Journal

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