Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that Mitt Romney will “do very well” in Wisconsin if he wins the Republican presidential nomination, although President Barack Obama has the edge heading into the November election.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Welcome back. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is in our studio. Thank you for joining us, Governor.
SCOTT WALKER: Al, great to be with you.
HUNT: Let’s talk jobs in Wisconsin first.
HUNT: You pledged to create 250,000 jobs. You’ve been in office only a little over a year, but employment in Wisconsin is the same as it was when you took over. Is that a little disappointing for you?
WALKER: Well, we had three years prior to my taking office of losing 150,000 jobs. We gained jobs, had a net gain, although certainly not 250,000 we talked about, but that was over four years.
WALKER: So it’s kind of like - we talked about Vince Lombardi before. It’s kind of like taking over a team that’s 1-15 and promising -
HUNT: So you’re going to still gain those 250,000?
WALKER: Well, you get them to the Super Bowl. You don’t get them the next year. You get over four years. That’s what Lombardi did, got to a championship -
HUNT: So three more years to go, you’re going to get there?
WALKER: Well, think about it. Our unemployment rate’s down from a year ago. It’s actually down, lower than it’s been since 2008. We’re definitely heading in the right direction.
HUNT: Let’s talk about the presidential race. The Wisconsin primary isn’t until April, but as of today, who would be the stronger general-election candidate in your state, Santorum or Romney?
WALKER: I haven’t picked a candidate, but I think in the end, conventional wisdom in our state is still Mitt Romney will be the nominee and that he’ll do very well in Wisconsin.
HUNT: And are you going to endorse before April?
HUNT: You’re not?
WALKER: I’ve got a recall coming up, hasn’t been established -
HUNT: So you have to focus on your own.
WALKER: - late May or June, 100 percent focused.
HUNT: But Romney would be the stronger candidate. The latest Wisconsin polls - you said he would do quite well - but the latest polls show Barack Obama with a double-digit lead out there. Isn’t it going to be uphill for Mitt Romney or anyone else to beat Barack Obama in the fall?
WALKER: Well, I think you saw this four years ago. President Obama is from neighboring Illinois. There’s a Midwestern connection there. But I think, in the end, the closer it gets to the election, the closer it gets to the definition. If this race is defined as the difference between a president who currently defines success in government as putting more people on government benefits, particularly unemployment benefits, versus a nominee who says he’s going to do more to get people off of unemployment and onto the private-sector payrolls, I think that’s the real test. If that message resonates, then I think whoever the Republican nominee is can ultimately succeed.
HUNT: Has a shot. Would you agree that, as of today, Obama’s the favorite?
WALKER: Oh, yeah, I think there’s no doubt. I think anytime you have an incumbent, it’s always an uphill battle. Certainly, he’s got a lot of money, a lot of resources, a lot of money collected that he said four years ago he wasn’t going to collect. But that aside, he’ll have it.
Now, the question mark will still be not only unemployment itself, but I think in a larger context, where do Americans feel we’re headed? If they feel like we’re headed towards greater prosperity not only in Wisconsin, but across the country, then I think the president’s going to continue. If they feel like that’s a question mark and we need somebody else to turn things around, then I think the challenger has it.
HUNT: You’ve had huge battles with unions in your state. That’s really what a lot of the recall is about.
WALKER: Well, it’s entirely about it.
HUNT: Let me - yeah, well, turn to that in a minute - let me just ask you - this is a separate question. Both at debates and the campaign commercials among the Republican presidential candidates, there’s a lot of union-bashing, talking about labor bosses. Is this a winning line that resonates, because people are really angry at unions, or do you worry it goes too far and could be divisive and counterproductive?
WALKER: We’re not about bashing. We’re about fixing things. And in our case, there’s a big difference -
HUNT: No, I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the presidential race.
WALKER: No, well, and I think, in the end, what people want - it’s what inspired me three decades ago to get into public service was President Reagan, and he was tough and strong and definitive, but he had an optimistic view. He believed in the American people. I think we need more optimism. I don’t think we need to target who the bad guy is. I think we need to more talk about the future (inaudible) not just in terms of bashing big government employee unions, but in any regard, even going after the president. If the nominee’s going to win, it’s got to be about optimism and the belief that there’s a positive vision the Republicans offer, not just how bad the Democrats are.
HUNT: Are the Republican presidential candidates striking that right balance? Or are they going too far towards bashing?
WALKER: I think too far right now, but I think that’s partly a product of the primary process. When you have, you know, all these different debates and forums, it skews towards trying to define things as to how can you appeal to the primary base. I think in the general election, the candidate focuses on - not just on jobs, but I think in the larger issue of freedom, which candidate is more likely to put more ability to have freedoms in the hands of the American people will be the one that succeeds.
HUNT: Same thing, Governor, with a question of immigration. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, has worried the Republican Party is positioning itself as the anti-immigrant party and that’s a mistake.
WALKER: We’re not at all. I mean, I look at - again, what drew me into people like President Reagan and others, we’re the party about living the American dream. Now, I think that means there’s rules and there’s standards, and certainly saying there should be a legitimate way for people to gain access to citizenship in America is right, and I don’t think you can disregard that. But there’s got to be a balance between the two, and I think unfortunately the media has unfairly portrayed at least some Republicans as being anti-immigrant.
HUNT: Let me ask you about the recall, which you mentioned earlier. You have noted there’s a lot of out-of-state money coming in to try to beat you, but is that any different than the $700,000 that the Koch brothers are putting in the Badger State to support you?
WALKER: Well, you look at any of the money, any groups like that, you look at the money I’ve raised on my own, I wouldn’t have to spend a penny - wouldn’t have to spend a penny, wouldn’t be raising a penny, there wouldn’t be any money on TV right now if it wasn’t for the out-of-state unions and the money they’re not only spending now, but what they spent last year at this time to fight the legislation that we passed that reformed our state government and reformed our local governments. We wouldn’t have this fight if it weren’t for the tens of millions of dollars that were spent in the recall election. I mean, $44 million in total was spent, the majority against the six Republicans -
HUNT: Are you going to win the recall?
WALKER: I believe so.
HUNT: You do?
WALKER: I believe in the end the truth is our most powerful tool in this election. When people see that things like our schools and our local governments are the same or better, when they see that property taxes after five years of going up $220 million actually went down last year by $47 million for the school levy, when they see that the bogeyman didn’t happen, the things that those unions, those public employee unions talked about didn’t happen, and instead our state is better off because of it, and particularly if it contrasts with Illinois - I mean, my goodness. Illinois is a prime example of what will happen if the recall wins. You’ll go back to the days of double-digit tax increases, $1 billion budget deficits, and record job loss.
HUNT: One question on the Koch brothers. As you know, they’re very controversial. Koch Industries has been involved in improper payments overseas. They went and they sold millions of petrochemical equipment to Iran. Are the Koch brothers good corporate citizens?
WALKER: You know, for me, I mean, that’s not for me to judge one way or the other. One of their companies employs almost 3,000 people in Green Bay. Certainly that’s important to us. But they’re one of thousands of people out there. I mean, you look at -
HUNT: And you don’t know them, do you?
WALKER: No, I mean, I literally just this year for the first time at a function in passing met with them, but I had never met them before, for all the hype out there. But I’m not here to judge pro or con. The bottom line is, this is one of the many groups. It’s a fraction - a fraction of the money that’s been spent by the big government unions out of Washington and Wisconsin. And it’s interesting the media spins the hype on that, instead of all the money that these unions are pouring, much of which is not disclosed.
HUNT: This Milwaukee investigation of former aides of yours, this isn’t going to touch you?
WALKER: No. I mean, in the end, you know, we’ve had a very clear policy when I was in the legislature, when I was county executive, now as governor, that we don’t use public resources for political purposes, either county time or county money in the past.
HUNT: Governor Scott Walker, thank you so much. And next year, the Pack will be back.
WALKER: Absolutely. We’re going to bring the Lombardi trophy back where it belongs, back to Lambeau.
HUNT: Thank you very much, Governor.
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