It turns out even Washington outsiders have a reason to venture inside the Beltway once in a while.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has grown fond of bashing Washington and casting himself as an outsider, will spend Tuesday hobnobbing with members of Congress, potential donors and conservative groups as he seeks to build support for a likely presidential run.
“I like to call it 68-square-miles surrounded by reality,” Walker quipped, referring to Washington at a conservative gathering in Maryland earlier this year.
Slamming Washington is always a popular line – until you have to come to town to shore up establishment support and scoop up big donors.
That’s why Walker will kick off Tuesday with a slate of congressional meetings with roughly 70 to 80 lawmakers, according to people familiar with the plans. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a longtime pal, is expected to introduce him at the event.
Later that afternoon, he is set to meet with social conservative groups such as the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America.
Penny Nance, chief executive of Concerned Women for America, is planning to attend. She said of everyone flirting with a White House bid, she knows the least about Walker.
“It’s important to hear and actually try to discern the heart of a candidate,” Nance said. “I want to know their moral compass, their core values, are the same as my members.”
Walker is also hoping to woo some donors while he’s in town. He is billed as the special guest Monday night at a reception to benefit the Republican Party of Virginia. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to meet with K Street and trade association representatives – Washington’s GOP donor base – people familiar with the event said.
Meanwhile, Walker is starting to catch some heat for spending so much time outside of his state. A columnist writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a piece under the headline, “Walker makes surprise visit to Wisconsin.”
Another local news outlet reported Democrats put up billboards calling for Walker to come home while he was on a recent political trip to Israel.
The Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact dug into his travel and found the governor spent an average of 14 nights per month in the state from January to March – a little less than half the time. The Wisconsin State Journal built an interactive website to track Walker’s travel.
A spokesman in the Wisconsin governor’s office said Walker is still focused on the issues facing Wisconsin and is in contact with his staff even when he is traveling.
“As he has always done, he meets weekly and talks regularly with legislative leadership, as well as legislators, to discuss issues important to Wisconsin,” said Laurel Patrick, the governor’s press secretary. “He also continues to work with lawmakers on a budget that best serves Wisconsin’s citizens and businesses.”
CNN’s Dana Bash and Gloria Borger contributed to this report.