Credit where it’s due: Scott Walker knows what he’s doing.
The Wisconsin governor has probably had the most successful of the 2016 rollouts thus far, dominating about 30 minutes of Fox News prime-time coverage—and, thus, snagging countless Republican primary voter eyeballs—while staying in safe rhetorical territory, dinging the Iran deal that will dominate the news Tuesday and invoking his faith.
In a speech in Waukesha, Wisc., the governor made official what we’ve known for months: that he has his eyes on the White House. And he used an old tactic to do so: the prime-time speech.
“At the height of the [anti-budget] union protests, when we were approaching 100,000 protesters at and around the Capitol, I finally got wise,” he told them, according to an excerpt of the book published by BuzzFeed. “I started holding press conferences at 5:00 because I knew that if I kept it concise, local television and some national outlets would cover it live. So I had an unfiltered way to talk to the state for about 10 minutes.”
At his announcement, Walker talked to a national audience in the same way without interruption for much longer than that, touting his humble roots and momentarily interrupting otherwise-nonstop coverage of Donald Trump’s latest antics and the prison escape of Mexican drug lord El Chapo.
The governor’s announcement felt like an expanded version of his stump speech, and it looped in the typical cast: his wife, Tonette; his sons, Matt and Alex; and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, all of whom were omnipresent with him on the gubernatorial campaign trail and are expected to be quite visible during his presidential campaign.
Kleefisch warmed up the crowd with a fiery speech about progressives’ efforts to recall Walker in 2012, quoting Bible verses she and the governor texted about and calling for a restoration of America.
It wasn’t the only faith-centric moment of the night, as Tonette Walker touched on her family’s beliefs when she thanked attendees for their support.
“You prayed for us, and we felt those prayers and we cannot thank you enough,” she said.
And she joked about her husband’s perennial campaigning, noting that he has already run three races since 2010.
“When he told me he was thinking about a fourth election, I said, ‘What the heck why not!’” she said.
Walker kept up his wife’s folksy tone, bringing up his affinity for Kohl’s discounts and his middle-class upbringing.
“We didn’t inherit fame or fortune from our family,” said Walker, who referred to himself using the first person plural throughout the speech. “What we got was the belief that if we work hard and you play by the rules, you can do and be anything.”
He also touched on a host of topics important to the Republican base, including opposition to the “bad deal” with Iran and support for tougher sanctions on the nation. He also touted his signing of pro-life legislation and promised to repeal “the so-called Affordable Care Act.” Absent from the speech was any discussion of same-sex marriage, an interesting omission given that his sons told CNN on Sunday that they disagree with his stance on the issue. Walker also didn’t discuss his position on immigration policy and border security.
Overall, the speech seemed to go off without any hitches and didn’t deviate much from prepared remarks provided to reporters—despite the reported absence of a teleprompter. And the hiccup-free performance played out in all its splendor before Fox’s audience, kicking off a White House bid that’s likely to build on strategies the candidate developed over four years spent nearly continuously on the stump.