Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker on Wednesday rolled up his shirt sleeves and got to work in Texas — one of the most coveted states in next year’s presidential election.
The Wisconsin governor strode into the Highland Park Soda Fountain after the breakfast rush to shake hands with customers and seek their support.
He touched on issues ranging from cowboy hats (he admired one a supporter wore) to steel-toed boots (which he recently wore to a state fair because “you never know where animals will step”).
After chatting with dozens of people — and taking time to drink an old-fashioned ice cream soda — he made the case for why Texans should support him over other candidates including Texas’ former Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
“Americans are looking for someone to shake things up a little bit,” he told media gathered outside the soda shop. “They want someone to wreak some havoc on Washington ... [and] people can see I’ve been able to wreak havoc on our state Capitol.
“We will not be intimidated by anyone.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is to appear at a rally at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
If elected president, Walker said, he plans on getting rid of the Affordable Care Act and terminating the “bad deal in Iran” on Day One.
“If you give us a chance, unleash us on Washington, we will put the American people back in charge of their country.”
A top Texas Democrat pointed to education cuts Walker made during his first term as Wisconsin governor, which led to larger classes and teacher layoffs.
“Scott Walker and the Republicans’ education record is clear: Texans and Americans cannot trust them with their children’s future,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.
The presidential primaries are March 1.
Used to run track
Walker, 47, Wisconsin’s governor since 2011, announced his presidential campaign in July, first in a video then at a rally near Milwaukee. He has touted his work to revive the state’s economy through tax cuts and his fight with unions.
On Wednesday, Walker said he’s not worried about running middle of the pack in some GOP presidential polls.
“I used to run track,” he said. “The only time that it was important when you were ahead was when you crossed the finish line.
“I plan on being ahead when we cross the finish line in 2016.”
Walker has been criticized for saying that building a wall along the United States’ northern border was a “legitimate” topic for discussion. That was a misunderstanding by the media, he said, that sprang from a discussion about federal staffing levels in terms of working with counties along the Canadian border.
“I’ve never said anything about building a northern border,” he said, adding that he has toured the southern border of Texas with Gov. Greg Abbott.
“I’ve seen seen firsthand . . . we have a southern border that every single day is being penetrated by criminal organizations that are trafficking drugs, weapons, and human trafficking.”
This is Scott Walker’s first trip to Texas since he formally joined the race for the White House. He will campaign in Midland and San Antonio this week.
Bill Read, a Walker supporter from Irving, was the first person Walker spoke with at the soda shop.
“He talked about my hat. He liked my hat,” Read said with a grin.
“He is one of the only politicians who actually has experience and has done what he said he would do.”
Erin Leu of Dallas isn’t sure if Walker has her vote, but she showed up with her 2-month-old son, George Matthew, to learn more about him.
“I wanted to meet Gov. Walker, and I wanted George to meet him ... to start his political education early,” she said smiling.
Stewart McGregor, 24, of Arlington said he hasn’t 100 percent made up his mind for whom he will vote.
“But he’s my top choice right now,” he said. “This campaign is really exciting.”