Throughout the 2012 election cycle Republicans have pined for a bold, conservative reformer—a leader courageous enough to make difficult choices and articulate enough to explain them to a skeptical public. The good news is they have such a candidate. The less good news: Scott Walker isn’t running for president. He’s running to hang on to his job as governor of Wisconsin.
Walker is the target of a recall effort funded by national labor unions. Why? Reforms he made to balance the budget have dramatically diminished the influence of public employee unions. If not reversed, these reforms will inspire similar efforts across the country, and the outsized power of public sector unions will finally be reined in.
The election in Wisconsin—which will happen in late spring or summer—could have a profound impact on the 2012 presidential race, with the winning side emerging from the battle organized and energized in one of the most important swing states this November.
Walker came to office in the Republican wave of 2010. He inherited a mess. Under his profligate predecessor, Jim Doyle, state government had operated almost as a slush fund for public employee unions. Giveaways to teachers and others put the state on an unsustainable fiscal path, so Doyle raised some taxes and threatened to raise others. He raided a state fund set up to cover medical liability, essentially stealing contributions doctors had made to the pooled account. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against that pilfering, but the money had already been spent. Even after budget gimmickry that would make Fannie and Freddie blush, the official deficit was $3.6 billion.