Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continues to say he can “compete anywhere in the country” as a Republican presidential candidate.
But apparently not Florida.
Real Clear Politics reports that Walker, at a private fundraising event in St. Louis over the weekend, said he will opt out of the Florida primary, seemingly reversing his position from earlier public statements.
During an event at the home of Rex Sinquefield, Missouri’s leading Republican donor, Walker explained it “doesn’t make a ton of sense” to pour cash into Florida with both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the race.
Walker is choosing to focus on Midwestern states like Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio, which have primaries on March 15, the same day as Florida.
The governor suggested the Republican primary contest could last as long as April, one person at the closed-door event told Rebecca Berg of Real Clear Politics. That means any single primary, even in a state as large as Florida, is less valuable to Walker’s national strategy.
This shift in policy – particularly in Florida — is a clear departure from Walker’s earlier plan to win the Republican nomination.
In May, Walker told radio host Laura Ingraham that he will skip the Florida primary – an early winner-take-all race – dominated by local heavyweights Bush and Rubio.
“I don’t think there’s a state out there we wouldn’t play in, other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are … essentially tied,” he said.
Later, Walker backed off from the comment, saying, “If I didn’t think I could compete, I wouldn’t be here today.”
The New York Times, commenting on June’s Economic Growth Summit in Orlando, wrote that Walker vows to compete in Florida, and his softened stance was “in deference to two favorite sons … I thought that Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio certainly would have a competitive advantage over anybody because of their presence as favorite sons in this state and having won statewide elections.”
For now, Walker is focusing much of his energy on winning Midwestern states.
In a speech in Iowa after announcing his presidential bid, Walker told audience members: “The path for a Republican to win the presidency comes through the Midwest.”
Berg also noted that Walker was busy courting high-profile GOP donors in Missouri last weekend. The event included Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder; former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent; U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer; and former gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence.
Also in attendance was former Senate candidate John Brunner, who recently launched a bid for governor.