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Mitch Perry Report for 7.17.15 — In N.H., Scott Walker boldly declares, ‘I’m an American’

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“I love America.”

Those were the first words out of Scott Walker’s mouth on Monday night when he announced from Waukesha, Wis., that he is now the 15th official candidate in the GOP 2016 presidential sweepstakes.

Since the campaign began in earnest earlier this year, Walker has been considered in the top tier of candidates who could win the nomination, and I’ve said for months that the nominee would probably be Walker, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

But Walker is beginning to remind me more and more of the Mitt Romney of 2007-2008, and even of 2012. You know, the guy who when he ran the first time flip-flopped on a number of major issues to appeal to social conservatives? The guy who was so insecure about his conservative credentials in 2012 that he described himself as a “severe conservative,” a guy who believed that the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country should solve the immigration problem simply by “self-deporting.”

Walker has been leading for months in Iowa, the first state that will vote for president next year. But can he play outside of the Midwest? (And just for reference: Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008, and Rick Santorum won it in 2012. How’d they ultimately do?)

Walker has been catering to the far right during the campaign. He was the only candidate that I’m aware of that came out calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage last month. He’s made noises against legal immigration, and referred to the Democratic Party’s embrace of raising the minimum wage as “lame.”

So it was certainly fair for a reporter to ask him in New Hampshire yesterday if he just might be too conservative to win in the Granite State next February.

“This state is an independent state, I’m an independent guy,” Walker said. The New York Times then reported the exchange went like this:

Referring to his fights in Wisconsin against labor unions, among others, he added: “I took the power out of the hands of the big government special interest and put it firmly in the hands of the American people. I don’t think the people of New Hampshire want to be told who they should vote for — they want to hear who the right person is to lead this country forward.”

Asked if he considered himself an independent or a conservative, Mr. Walker paused for a couple of seconds, then said, “I’m an American, that’s what I am. I’m an American. I’m going to continue to stand for American values.”

Glad to get that out of the way.

Look, it’s way too early too dismiss Walker’s chances of winning the nomination. But of all the major candidates, nobody seems to be pandering more to appear to be all things to all people.

In other news…

The Tampa City Council has repealed its previous law on panhandling, meaning that it’s now illegal for somebody to sell you a paper on a city intersection. The Council did so in response to a lawsuit against the ordinance by a homeless organization.

Jeb Bush will be making a few stops in Florida over the next couple of weeks, including an appearance at the National Urban League annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, where three Democratic presidential candidates will also appear, but only one other Republican (Dr. Ben Carson).

The half-cent transportation tax in Hillsborough County for 2016 advanced yesterday, but a few county commissioners — who will make the ultimate call whether it will go on the ballot next year — expressed considerable trepidation as the plan continues to evolve.

And Progress Florida names 12 House Democrats in Tallahassee who were “Middle class champions” this year in the legislative session.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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