It’s official: Gov. Scott Walker is running for president.
Walker announced his candidacy for president early Monday before holding his first event that evening at the Waukesha County Expo Center, saying he would seek the 2016 Republican nomination just one day after he signed the 2015-’17 state budget.
“America needs new, fresh leadership and big, bold ideas from outside Washington,” Walker said in his announcement video released Monday morning. “I’m running for president to fight and win for the American people.”
At his campaign announcement Monday evening in Waukesha, Walker touted his conservative history as governor, including his win in the 2012 recall election.
“Our big, bold reforms in Wisconsin took the power from the big government special interests and put it firmly into the hands of the hard-working taxpayers,” Walker said of the unions’ efforts to recall him.
He drew cheers from the crowd when he mentioned striking tenure and seniority from state law in the past state budget, which was finalized over the course of the past week.
Walker also criticized Washington lawmakers, calling Washington, D.C. “68 square miles surrounded by reality.”
He mentioned various policies he seeks to implement if elected, including building the Keystone XL pipeline, expanding school choice and not “leading from behind,” in foreign policy.
“Americans fight to win,” Walker said. “The world needs to know that there is no better friend and no worse enemy than the United States.”
Walker drew much of his influence from former president Ronald Reagan. First Lady of Wisconsin Tonette Walker said “he never forgets our anniversary, especially because it’s the same day as Ronald Reagan’s birthday.”
He joins a crowded field of Republican nominees including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, physician and philanthropist Dr. Ben Carson and business tycoon Donald Trump.
Speculation that Walker would seek the nomination began swirling after U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced in January he would not run for president, electing instead to focus on his work in Congress and as chair of the powerful Committee on Ways and Means.
Just weeks later Walker created a super PAC, Our American Revival, further fueling speculation of an Oval Office run. The group’s formation came on the heels of the governor’s appearance at the Iowa Freedom Summit and a stop at a California fundraiser hosted by Koch Industries executives and conservative backers Charles and David Koch.
Walker has since made major actions in Iowa, a key state in the Republican primaries. He has made several stops in the Hawkeye State in recent months and his campaign was the first to open an office there. He has parlayed this campaigning into an eight-point lead in the GOP Iowa caucuses, according to a July 1 Quinnipiac University poll.
The governor has also caught the eye of Republican leaders and donors, including David Koch, who said at an April fundraising event that Walker is “terrific” and praised his economic reforms in Wisconsin.
Despite this success, Walker faces an uphill battle nationwide. In a Reuters poll released Sunday, 5.8 percent of Republicans supported Walker, 11 points behind frontrunner Jeb Bush.
Following his announcement Monday, Walker will embark on a week-long tour of several crucial early primary states, with stops scheduled for Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa.