The veteran Wisconsin Republican operative who ran Herman Cain’s 2012 presidential campaign told Newsmax that Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to sign "right-to-work" legislation last week would be a major assist to his expected bid for the GOP nomination for president in 2016.
"Yes, absolutely, right-to-work will help get Gov. Walker through some of the primaries and caucuses," Mark Block told us. "It has a strong appeal to the Republican base who turn out in big numbers for the primaries and the party caucuses to select delegates."
Block has run six statewide races in his native Wisconsin, including those of Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda Cross and Gov. Tommy Thompson in his landslide re-election bid in 1990. He is best known, however, as the quarterback of former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and tea party favorite Herman Cain’s presidential bid. In a celebrated online Cain spot, Block offers testimony about his candidate while smoking a cigarette.
The commercial went viral and brought swatches of publicity to Block, with many likening him to the mysterious "smoking man" who was the villain in the long-running "X-Files" TV series.
"I still get calls about that spot," Block chuckled, adding that he has dropped smoking three packs a day in 2012 to "about half a pack" now.
In making the Badger State the 25th right-to-work state in the nation, Walker, in Block’s words, "demonstrated that when he tells you he’ll do something, he’ll do it. And conservatives who vote in primaries like that."
When Newsmax asked Walker about pushing right-to-work at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in June 2012, he made it clear this was not part of his agenda at the time.
"No, I’m not going to do it," he said, thus making his strongest statement up to that point in ruling out a right-to-work law for the Badger State. Barely a week after surviving an internationally-watched recall attempt launched by labor unions infuriated at his reforms of pensions and healthcare for many public employees, Walker explained that the political climate in his state was too fractious after the recall election and he therefore wanted to find issues on which he could work with Democrats in the state Legislature.
Walker, who had invited Democratic lawmakers and their spouses to the governor’s mansion in Madison for beer and brats, spoke at the time of "school accountability" as a cause he would pursue with them when the new Legislature convened in January of 2013.
With Walker’s re-election in 2014, Republicans controlled the state Assembly by a margin of 63-to-36 seats and the state Senate by 18-14. When lawmakers convened in January, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald — and not the governor — was the "driving force" behind enacting right-to-work, according to Republican Sen. Roger Roth of Appleton.
"My office had a constant stream of union members coming in saying that right-to-work would 'destroy unions' and was 'bad for workers,' Roth told Newsmax, "We countered with statistics showing that right-to-work states had more than doubled job growth since 2010 and there were actually more union jobs that were created. In contrast, we pointed to the statistic from the U.S. Department of Labor showing that non-right-to-work states had shed more than 248,000 jobs since 2010."
Walker, who had supported right-to-work while a member of the state Assembly in the 1990s, said he would sign such a measure if it came to his desk. Last week, he did.
Asked about the impact of right-to-work on his national ambitions, Roth replied: "It certainly won’t hurt him."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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