Facing Trump surge, Walker adopts harder anti-Washington edge

Story highlights

  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's lead in Iowa has slipped
  • He's seeking to portray himself as an outsider to try and get it back

Washington (CNN)Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has always been a Washington outsider. Now, as he attempts to turn back a Donald Trump surge among Iowa voters, he's further playing up his outsider status by unloading on Beltway Republicans.

"Think about this, we were told by Republican leaders during the campaign cycle last year that we just needed a Republican Senate to be elected to repeal Obamacare. Well, here we sit, you know both chambers of the United States Congress have been controlled since January by Republicans and yet there's not a bill on the President's desk to repeal Obamacare," Walker said.
For Walker, who works hard to stick to his talking points, the comments marked a noticeable change just a week after businessman Donald Trump surged to the top in Iowa polls and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson claimed second place.
    A new CNN/ORC poll, released Tuesday, showed Trump with a decisive lead nationwide, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Walker, who had previously been running close with Bush, fell to 8% support.
    Walker teased some of that message during an interview with Fox News last week, and then let it rip Monday at the Iowa State Fair.
    "I think part of the reason why we see some of the things we see across this country are because people want to send a message," Walker said in Des Moines. "I talk to voters all the time in this state and around the country who said, 'We want to send a message to Republican leaders in Washington that when you make promises on the campaign trail, we wanna see it.' Whether it's repealing Obamacare or standing up against illegal immigration."
    By his first major policy roll out Tuesday, Walker sought to up his conservative credentials even further, priming the crowd with a story of taking on Republican lawmakers in his own state.
    "I said to them, the voters had told us they wanted is to be big and be bold. As you can imagine, at the time, there were some Republican lawmakers who were kind of uneasy with the idea of taking on the status quo," Walker said, recounting how he put Wisconsin Republicans on notice after winning his first term in office in 2010.
    "I said it's put up or shut up time," he said.
    Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, said the new Walker tone matches messaging that conservative megaphones Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have long used -- the bashing of Washington Republicans.
    And while many within the GOP banked on Trump's support fading, the new calculation is he's here to stay, Levesque said. The smart candidates, he said, are now looking at and analyzing Trump and figuring out how to make that model work for them.
    "I think that's kind of thing it's not straight impression of Donald Trump, but I think he's trying to capitalize on it," said Levesque, who is hosting Walker Friday morning for a "Politics and Eggs" talk.