Politics & Policy

Scott Walker Backs Off Suggestion He’d Cede Florida Primary to Bush, Rubio

Walker at the Economic Growth Summit in Orlando. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

Orlando, Fla. — One week after hinting he may skip Florida’s hotly contested presidential primary next year, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has reversed course.

“Let me be clear, the media suggested I would do that,” he said to reporters here today at Florida governor Rick Scott’s Economic Growth Summit. “I’ve never said that.”

On Laura Ingraham’s May 26 radio show, Walker said there wasn’t a state his prospective presidential candidate wouldn’t campaign in, “other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are, at least in some of the polls, essentially tied, and they’re going to eat up a good amount of the financial advantage that governor Bush is going to have.”

“We could compete to try and win anywhere in the country,” Walker said on Tuesday. “The only pause I gave was in deference to two favorite sons in Florida — I thought that Governor Bush and Senator Rubio would have a competitive advantage over anybody, because of their presence as favorite sons in this state, having won statewide election.”

‘The next Republican president we elect will need to have votes here in the great state of Florida. … If I choose to be a candidate, we’ll spend a lot of time here.’

“But if I didn’t think I could compete, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “The next Republican president we elect will need to have votes here in the great state of Florida. . . . If I choose to be a candidate, we’ll spend a lot of time here.”

The governor repeatedly stressed his familial ties to Florida during his talk at Disney World on Tuesday morning. But Walker lacks the donor base and name recognition of presidential rivals Bush and Rubio, who are already angling to outmaneuver the each other in their home state. And campaigning in a state as large and populous as Florida can be prohibitively expensive — Governor Scott, for example, spent $100 million in his reelection campaign last year.

Walker joined five other current and former Republican governors at Tuesday’s summit. Rubio was scheduled to attend, but was forced to remain in Washington to debate the now-expired PATRIOT Act. He sent a brief video instead, which was played for the assembled crowd of Florida donors.

— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.

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