The way Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz see the ideal 2016 Republican presidential nominee, it sounds a lot like themselves.
For Walker, 46, that means a candidate “with firm roots from outside of Washington.”
“People across the board -- Republican, Democrat alike -- are frustrated with the problems they see in the nation’s capital,” Walker said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “People in this country, again, across the political spectrum, are tired of the nonsense in Washington.”
Cruz, 42, contends that the party simply needs the right candidate -- a fiscal conservative willing to defy party elders and defend the U.S. Constitution.
“The next president should be someone who’s leading the fight for free-market principles and the Constitution, and someone who’s listening to the American people -- not listening to the established politicians,” Cruz, a first-term lawmaker from Texas, said in a separate interview for the program.
Both Walker and Cruz are as seen as potential candidates in the 2016 race for the White House.
In a September survey run by Quinnipiac University, 10 percent of Republican voters said they’d back Cruz for the nomination, while 4 percent picked Walker. U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was the first choice, with 17 percent.
That survey was taken before a 16-day partial federal government shutdown. Following the shutdown, just 9 percent of voters said they approved of the job Congress was doing, a 39-year-low, according to the Gallup Poll.
Cruz and Walker also disagreed about the credentials of another potential presidential candidate, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, who won a second term this month.
Cruz pointedly declined to call Christie a conservative.
“I like Chris Christie, I’m glad he was re-elected,” Cruz said. “I think his blunt, brash style is refreshing.”
Walker said Christie is conservative “on most issues,” and praised him for overhauling New Jersey pension laws despite a legislature controlled by Democrats.
“The difference between Chris and I is just that I have a little bit of a Midwestern filter, but he’s pretty forceful on conservative issues,” Walker said.
Both Walker and Cruz declined to rule out mounting 2016 runs. Cruz said his “focus is on the Senate,” while Walker pointed to his third governor’s race next year. Walker won the governor’s office in 2010 and, last year, a recall attempt set off by his curbs on public-employee unions, which he said were draining the state’s coffers.
“The overall argument I’m making is someone who’s not just been a chief executive, but someone who’s been a proven reformer, who’s taken on the big challenges,” Walker said.
Walker, who has said Republicans should focus on economic issues over social concerns, said he’d support a federal bill that would extend workplace protections to gays and lesbians, if it was similar to a measure already in place in Wisconsin. The federal bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate this month, though Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has refused to take it up.
“In Wisconsin, we’ve had anti-discriminatory laws that are very similar to that for more than 30 years and they’ve worked quite effectively,” Walker said.
Cruz indicated he will redouble his efforts to undo President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offering health care for the uninsured, early next year -- raising the prospect of yet another government shutdown fight in January.
“What we need to do is repeal it in its entirety,” Cruz said of the health-care law. Asked whether he could accomplish that in January, when Congress must vote on whether to continue funding the government, Cruz said: “I don’t know. I hope so.”
As for what he would put in Obamacare’s place if it were repealed, he offered no new specifics on how to cover individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, instead calling for legislation to allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines and keep coverage when they switch jobs.
“If your health insurance could be like your car insurance, if it could be portable, it could go with you from job to job, that solves an enormous amount of the problem with pre-existing conditions and you can solve the rest of it with high-risk pools, which Obamacare is eliminating,” Cruz said.
Walker said Republicans need to offer a market-driven alternative to Obamacare. He’s encouraging residents to join the health-care insurance exchange in his state.
“There’s a better free-market alternative, but it’s the law,” Walker said.
On foreign policy, Cruz criticized Obama for seeking a nuclear weapons deal with Iran in exchange for an end to U.S. sanctions without insisting on preconditions, such as a commitment that the Iranians dismantle nuclear centrifuges, calling it “a mistake.”
“This administration’s weakness on this policy is having the effect of encouraging Iran to move faster towards acquiring nukes,” Cruz said.
Walker declined to say whether he thought the U.S. should play a larger role in global disputes, or pull back and focus more on domestic issues. “Like most Americans, I’m somewhere in between the two,” Walker said.