Scott Walker calls Clinton a ‘candidate of the past,’ sidesteps question about Trump

Last modified: Wednesday, July 22, 2015
When Scott Walker arrived at Joey’s Diner on Thursday, he hopped into the bed of a bright-red pickup truck parked out front to speak to more than 100 people crowded outside the Amherst restaurant.

About 200 more voters waited inside for the Wisconsin governor, who formally launched his campaign for the White House on Monday.

The event marked the start of Walker’s first swing through the Granite State as an official presidential candidate, one of 15 on the Republican side.

Walker last visited New Hampshire in May. Ahead of his visit this week, some speculated Walker’s recent absence – as candidates like Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina make nearly weekly visits – might quash excitement around his campaign here.

That didn’t appear to be the case Thursday. So many people showed up that it prompted Walker to make two separate speeches to groups outside and inside the Amherst diner.

Dismissing the notion that he would be a stranger in the state, Walker said several times he plans to visit often. Next week, Walker said he will come through on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“We’re going to keep coming back because we want to win early in 2016 and we want to win again in November of 2016 here in New Hampshire,” Walker said.

Walker, 47, didn’t take questions from the audience, but he laid out a platform focused on reform, growth and safety and touted some of his work in Wisconsin, like winning three elections in four years, passing voter ID laws and defunding Planned Parenthood.

“If all that can work in a blue state like Wisconsin, imagine what we can do for America,” said Walker, who survived a gubernatorial recall election in 2012.

On domestic policy, Walker advocated for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, an elimination of the Common Core education standards and a transfer of power from Washington to states.

Pulling a crumpled dollar bill out of his pocket, Walker held it in the air. “I ask people all the time, where would you rather spend this dollar? In Washington, or at your child or grandchild’s school?” he said. “In Washington, so much of that money goes there and stays there. We need to send it back.”

Chester resident Jeanine LeBlanc was impressed by what she called Walker’s strength and his track record in Wisconsin. He’s on her short list, she said, and she is especially pleased Walker didn’t put down other Republican hopefuls.

Walker told the crowd he won’t be speaking ill of his party competition. After the event, Walker dodged a reporter’s question about whether Republican candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric is hurting the party.

“Donald Trump can speak for himself, and I’m not going to put words in the mouth of any candidate, him or anybody else,” Walker said. “I’m going to tell people what I’m for.”

Walker did take aim at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, criticizing her as a “candidate of the past” who “embodies everything that’s wrong with Washington.”

“I’ve gotten real things done in a tough state,” Walker told reporters after the event. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to even find supporters of her who could tell you she has done much more than accumulate a lot of frequent-flyer miles traveling around the world.”

Walker spent a large chunk of his 20-minute speech focused on foreign policy. If elected president, Walker said he would actively work to terminate the nuclear deal with Iran and put in place “even more crippling economic sanctions.”

Radical Islamic terrorism, he said, poses the greatest threat to future generations.

“Our goal should be peace. I believe in peace through strength,” he said. “There will be times when America must fight, and if we must, Americans fight to win.”

Walker’s take on international issues impressed Cindy Zorn, a Hollis resident who came to the event with her husband.

“I heard he might be a little weak with that as a governor,” said Zorn, who also praised Walker’s stance against Common Core. But she said she disagreed with his take on Planned Parenthood.

New Hampshire’s purple, moderate shift could be Walker’s biggest challenge here, Dan Zorn said.

Several voters said they walked away from the event impressed.

“I’m searching for a president. I think I may have just found my guy,” said Nashua resident Jay Clair, whose 2003 red Chevy pickup truck became Walker’s first stage at the Amherst event. Clair let the campaign borrow the truck. He has been planning to trade it in, but now he is thinking twice.

“After (Walker) wins the election,” Clair said jokingly, “it will be worth a lot more money.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com or on Twitter