Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker praised Gov. Nikki Haley’s leadership in bringing down the Confederate flag during a campaign stop in Lexington Wednesday, but said it’s too early to talk about running mates when asked if he would consider adding Haley to his ticket.
Speaking to reporters, Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, said he has a lot of respect for Haley, who has been “yet again on this issue ... a great leader.” He said Haley “brought together a broad coalition” to bring down the controversial Civil War battle flag in the wake of a racially motivated Charleston church shooting that killed nine African-Americans last month.
Asked whether he would consider Haley for vice president or another position in his administration, Walker said, “It's premature to be talking about vice presidents.” Walker, who only formally entered the race Monday, added he still has a lot of work to do in South Carolina and elsewhere to win the GOP nomination.
Walker and Haley both took office in 2011 and have campaigned for one another in the past. Speculation about Haley’s national political potential spiked after she spurred S.C. lawmakers last month to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
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Walker took questions from reporters after speaking to about 200 people crammed onto the porch at Hudson’s Smokehouse and Saloon on Sunset Avenue for a lunchtime event.
Pointing out his Harley-Davidson boots and the Fitbit athletic tracker on his wrist, Walker was relaxed, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt with rolled sleeves. He also appeared energetic, despite saying he had been awake for more than 30 hours after poor weather delayed his flight to South Carolina.
His state’s governor since 2011, Walker touted his fight against unions and help in passing more than $2 billion in tax cuts, requiring new voter ID requirements, permitting concealed weapons and requiring drug-testing for welfare recipients in a 25-minute stump speech.
Walker’s fight against labor unions was on supporters’ minds as they waited for the governor, coming from North Charleston, to arrive.
Walker, who is competitive in polls of a hypothetical S.C. GOP presidential primary, has a “record of not backing down when he gets into a tough situation,” said Tom Barfield, a chemist from Rock Hill, referring to Walker surviving a recall election in 2012, his second year in office.
Walker’s critics prompted that recall election after the governor moved to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state employees.
The crowd eagerly ate up the political red meat dished up by Walker, who highlighted his pro-life credentials by bashing Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health advocacy group that has fought a 20-week abortion ban in his state as well as South Carolina.
The crowd also applauded enthusiastically when Walker said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health-care law, and terminate a pending deal with Iran if he is elected president.
Walker offered a few more details about why he opposes the deal with Iran, which Obama promoted Wednesday as the best way to prevent that country from getting a nuclear weapon.
Calling for “more crippling sanctions” — and not diplomacy — Walker told reporters after his speech that he would “be willing to negotiate, but under our terms, not under Iran's terms.”
The U.S. terms should be “complete and absolute dismantlement of (Iran’s) illicit nuclear infrastructure (and) full transparency of any of their capacities, including underground fortified facilities,” Walker told reporters.
Walker’s Midlands stop was the midpoint on a one-day visit to South Carolina, his first trip to the Palmetto State since becoming the 15th Republican to enter the presidential race.
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SC visitors hope to ‘Draft Biden’
A grassroots organization aimed at getting Vice President Joe Biden to run for president in 2016 quietly visited the Palmetto State Wednesday.
Draft Biden 2016 director Will Pierce said the group met with past Biden supporters and community activists, and expects to announce some legislative and community endorsements for a Biden presidential run in the near future. “South Carolina is Delaware Junior,” Pierce said, suggesting the Palmetto State has as much support for Democrat Biden as the state where Biden was U.S. senator for 36 years.
The group says it has more than 150,000 online signatures nationwide urging Biden to run.
Former S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian said he met with one of the Draft Biden representatives Wednesday and was encouraged by the efforts they made. “There’s tremendous support out there for the vice president,” Harpootlian said. “A lot of folks are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what he does.”
Biden is expected to make his decision by Aug. 1. Most pundits do not expect him to run.