Politics & Policy

Scott Walker Targets Jeb Bush in South Carolina Speech

Walker speaks at the Freedom Summit (Richard Ellis/Getty)

Greenville, S.C. — Governor Scott Walker’s appearance at the South Carolina Freedom Summit wasn’t quite a series of standing ovations interrupted by his speech, but it was close.

“Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” an an attendee shouted over the applause as the Wisconsin governor walked on stage. Walker pointed at the man and repeated the word as he began his speech in praise of the military.

It was a fitting opening for Walker, who rooted his policy statements in his middle-class background and alluded to his family throughout the speech — as if he planned to convince votes that he is the “candidate who cares about people like me,” to quote the 2012 exit poll survey.

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Walker stayed positive throughout his speech, but took a thinly-veiled shot at former Governor Jeb Bush (R., Fla.) after talking about “flipping hamburgers” and growing up the son of a pastor and a part-time secretary.

“From our family, we didn’t inherit fame or fortune, what we inherited was the belief that if you work hard and you play by the rules you can do and be anything you want,” he said.

Such statements helped Walker leap into contention at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January, only to stumble while discussing foreign policy questions. In South Carolina, he offered a subtle corrective, noting that he is headed to Israel later today and assuring the audience — which was full of military service-members and their families — that he cares about national security as much as anyone.

Walker said he prefers to use the term “safety,” rather than national security. 

“National security is something you read about in the newspaper; safety is something you feel,” he said. “It’s something that — even though as a governor I don’t deal with it day in and day out — it has increasingly become one of the most important things for me to focus in on, because when I think about safety, I think about my own children and I think about yours as well.”

#related#Walker summarized his speech by telling the story of visiting Independence Hall for the first time and realizing that the room where the founders met to draft the U.S. Constitution was not a grand building.

“And it dawned on me  – these were ordinary people,” Walker said. “What has made America amazing is that [in times of crisis] there have been men and women of courage who have been willing to think more about the future of their children and their grandchildren than they thought about their own futures.”

He continued: “This is the time when we can look back and tell future generations [that] we were there, we heeded the call, we did what was required to make America great again.” 

Walker exited to another enthusiastic standing ovation, suggesting that he is still riding the wave that carried him into the top tier of the Republican presidential hopefuls.

More Coverage of the South Carolina Freedom Summit

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