Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is having a moment.
The two-term governor has in recent days emerged from a crowded field of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates to sit atop a new Iowa poll and capture the attention of the national politics arena.
And while he’s sure to cede the spotlight in due time to another member of the crowded field, the governor appears to be taking full advantage of the buzz. As he focuses on the home-front, unveiling a new budget proposal Tuesday in his state, Walker is doing the Sunday talk-show circuit, holding meetings in D.C., and most recently staffing up a newly launched political committee as he moves closer to a decision on a 2016 run.
“For the past few weeks he has been a media phenomenon,” David Payne, vice president of digital strategy at Washington-based Vox Global, said Monday. “But this is because no Republicans have fully declared yet. We have these early campaign moments. Walker has been enjoying this.
“And he should, while it lasts. In a week or two, it will be somebody else.”
For now, it’s Walker.
The Wisconsin governor’s rise revolves around Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state. He finished first in the Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released Saturday, just days after delivering a TelePrompTer-free speech at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines in which he rolled up his sleeves and wowed the conservative base with highlights from his high-profile governorship.
Within hours of the poll’s release, the 47-year-old Walker was already in Washington to meet with potential campaign aides and see high-dollar donors, including some waiting on final confirmation that 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had indeed passed on a 2016 bid.
By late Monday, news broke that Walker’s recently formed political action committee, Our American Revival, had made some key hires. Walker is bringing in Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kurkowski as part of its communication team; Republican strategist Ed Goeas as a senior adviser; and Mark Stephenson, formerly with newly elected Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, as the group’s chief data officer.
Stephenson, using Twitter to thank Rick Wiley, head of Walker’s PAC, tipped his hand in suggesting the group indeed is gearing up for a Walker campaign.
“@rick_wiley can’t wait, going to be a historic and fun two years,” he tweeted.
Walker also is enjoying some space to build his operation, as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush absorbs the lion’s share of scrutiny in the press, including a recent Boston Globe piece that detailed his drinking and marijuana use during his teenage years at the Phillips Academy in Andover.
Walker gave clues to what his campaign message would look like in his recent Des Moines speech. He repeatedly called for “big, bold, fresh” ideas. But it also included a heavy dose of Walker’s personal Wisconsin story — from his college days flipping hamburgers at McDonalds to his epic battle as governor against public employee unions — and all likely become part of the Walker narrative should he declare his candidacy.
“You heard about the protests, but you may not know … someone literally sent me a threat that said they were going to gut my wife like a deer,” Walker said at one point, pacing the stage in his 23-minute speech.
Walker also repeatedly pointed out he won three Wisconsin governor’s races in four years, in a state that hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential race in roughly three decades.
“I think that sends a powerful message to Republicans in Washington and across the country: If you are not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results,” Walker said.
Payne said Walker has something that conservatives are looking for — the backbone to stand up to “entrenched liberal interests.”
“It’s exactly what conservatives have been waiting for,” Payne continued. “They’ve been frustrated with congressional leadership for failing to take the tough stands.”
Still, Walker’s political moment appeared to wobble just a bit Sunday.
He struggled during an interview with ABC’s “This Week” to specifically answer foreign policy questions, including how the United States could be more “strategic” and “aggressive” in its fight against the Islamic State in Syria, beyond the U.S.-led coalition launching 2,000 air strikes in that country and Iraq over the past few months.
“When I say Walker offered absolutely nothing new, I mean he offered absolutely nothing new,” wrote liberal commentator and Forbes.com contributor Rick Ungar.
Still, analysts suggest Walker’s record as governor is strong enough to carry him until he catches up on foreign policy.
“Walker’s recent rise is a culmination of years of just really hard work and really good campaigns in a tough state,” Kurt Luidhardt, co-founder of the Prosper Group, an Indiana-based, digital-strategy firm, said.
Luidhardt also said Walker, like another potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, would have an advantage over other primary candidates because of his record as governor.
“He can say, ‘I’ve been an executive of a large state,’” Luidhardt said. “I think that’s really powerful.”
Fox News’ Serafin Gomez contributed to this report.