In appeal to Iowans, Walker says path to presidency runs through Midwest

Cedar Rapids, Iowa CNN  — 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker appeared to offer some insight Friday into his election strategy for his likely presidential run, a decision he’ll announce “sometime later in June” after the Wisconsin legislature passes a budget.

Speaking to a packed room in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Republican finished his stump speech with an appeal looking straight past the GOP nominating process – the Iowa caucuses are the first major electoral event in the race to the White House – and into the general election.

“If we were to get in, we wouldn’t be here just for the caucus, we’d be here for the full haul, all the way through November 2016,” he said. “Because I think it’s important that if a Republican is going to win the presidency, the path to win the presidency comes through the Midwest.”

He named his home state of Wisconsin, along with Iowa, Michigan and Ohio as potential pick-up states for Republicans in a general election. “And we’re even going to include Pennsylvania, ‘cause they’re part of the Big 10.”

Without saying it, Walker made the argument that he’s just the man to do it, pointing out his conservative accomplishments – examples include defunding Planned Parenthood and enacting voter ID laws – in a blue state like Wisconsin. He also didn’t forget to mention that he’s won elections there three times in the past five years.

“I say all these things not to brag – well, maybe not to brag too much,” he joked.

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Wisconsin hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since backing Ronald Reagan in 1984, while Michigan and Pennsylvania haven’t done so since 1988. Ohio and Iowa, meanwhile, have become reliable swing states that have wavered back and forth over the years.

Now with Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan having Republicans as governors – all of whom were re-elected last year – some are turning their eye to the Rust Belt as a potentially fruitful target for Republicans in 2016, especially as other swing states like Virginia and Colorado tend to become reliably more blue.

Walker sought to paint himself as a Republican coalition builder, saying he garnered support from a wide swath of Republicans in his state – from the Chamber of Commerce to the tea party and “everyone in between,” he said. But, in an attempt to bolster his electability credentials in a general election, he also pointed out that he won a majority of independents in his re-election bid last year.

As he typically has done when he’s visited Iowa, Walker talked about his roots in the state, dating back to when he lived in Plainfield as a kid in the 1970s. He referenced going to Happy Chef when he was younger, a breakfast chain that can be found throughout the Midwest. And he told a story about his grandparent’s tire coming off their car in Dubuque, located on the state’s eastern border.

Walker did not mention his tendency to shop at Kohl’s, a department store chain that’s become a crowd favorite during his speeches on the trail. He uses the retailer, which is headquartered in Wisconsin, to illustrate his frugalness as well as his ideal tax policy.

In the same way that Kohl’s makes a profit by lowering the prices of items and expanding the volume, he’d like to see lower tax rates across the board with an expanded number of people paying taxes. It’s already a concept called the “Laffer Curve,” but Walker says he’s renamed it the “Kohl’s Curve.”

However, Bloomberg Business published a report earlier this week detailing how Walker’s administration helped obtain multimillion-dollar tax incentives for the store, which was considering moving its headquarters out of state in 2012.

When asked by the Des Moines Register this week if he should disclose the tax credits whenever he talks about Kohl’s, Walker asked, “Why?”

“You’re talking about thousands of jobs,” Walker continued. “It’s not unlike what we do with the (tax break) package the state has available for any number of employers out there. The dollar amount is only bigger because instead of a hundred jobs, you’re talking about thousands and thousands of jobs.”