As a native Midwesterner who has taken on public sector unions, holds to an economic philosophy based on cutting taxes, and keeps an optimistic attitude, Scott Walker often casts himself as a natural heir to the Reagan mantle.
"President Reagan's influence is a key part of who I am today. He was more than just a Republican or even a conservative, he was an eternal optimist in the American people," said the Wisconsin governor in email responses to The New York Times.
Walker also believes that his policy priorities, which include providing "a sense of safety for Americans and free-loving people around the world," are ideas that the Gipper would support if he were alive today.
"These are ideas that I espouse and I am confident President Reagan would embrace if he were with us today," he said.
After hearing him speak at an event last month in South Carolina, the Reagan-Walker comparison resonated with some local GOP officials.
"He has guts," rural Orangeburg County Republican Party Chairman Jim Ulmer told The Washington Post
"The people of America are looking for another Ronald Reagan, someone we can believe in, someone who will keep freedom safe. Walker could be it," he said.
Others, including Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, dismiss any parallels and contend that Walker misses the complicated nature of the former California governor's presidential record.
"He never made his bones on trying to break the back of labor the way Walker has. Walker is borrowing from Reagan’s mystique more than any other Republican eyeing the presidency, but Ronald Reagan he ain’t," Cannon told the Times.
Walker's refusal to cater his policy priorities to the whims of public opinion polls is one quality that the Wisconsin governor shares with Reagan — and with another successful Republican president, Calvin Coolidge, says Garland Tucker in the National Review
"Walker’s famous showdown with the public unions elevated him onto the national stage. The liberal press was confident that this confrontation with the unions would be the end of Walker, but the Wisconsin voters felt differently.
"The manner in which Coolidge, Reagan, and Walker handled their respective crises won the admiration of the American people," writes Tucker, a businessman, trustee of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, and the author of "The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge and the 1924 Election."
But it might be that even Ronald Reagan himself could not be "next Reagan" in today's political environment.
"None of the contemporary politicians who claim to follow his path seem to have the depth of experience or steady insight of Ronald Reagan — and even if they did, the path is overgrown with briars and weeds," political analyst Michael Barone wrote last year in The Washington Examiner
"Those who would genuinely follow Reagan’s example need to find their own path forward, through a different and transformed America," Barone wrote. "The instinct and insight that enabled Ronald Reagan to find his path in his time is a rare gift, one that cannot be copied or cloned by invoking his name."
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