Can the Badger State Brat Pack Save the GOP?

From left: Priebus, Walker and Ryan all have prominent roles on the national GOP stage as the party plots a way forward.
From left: Priebus, Walker and Ryan all have prominent roles on the national GOP stage as the party plots a way forward.
Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:33am

Over on Roll Call’s homepage, I’ve posted a story on three Republicans from Southeast Wisconsin who are poised to wield enormous influence over the GOP during a critical period for the party.

House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, despite losing his bid for vice president last year, remains a key figure in GOP political and policy circles, and his leadership on fiscal matters could define what voters think of the party — and the candidates it fields up and down the ballot in 2014 and 2016.

Gov. Scott Walker rose to prominence nationally over the past few years as he implemented fiscal reforms in Wisconsin that curtailed the power of organized labor, which Republicans believe has been a drag on economic growth and states’ budget everywhere. Republicans in Washington and in the states have long sought to implement the reforms Walker achieved, but mostly failed. Whether the governor wins a second term next year could determine how lasting his policies are.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is pushing ahead with the biggest overhaul of party apparatus in at least a generation, if not ever. After getting crushed by President Barack Obama’s data and field operations in last year’s presidential election, Priebus has taken it upon himself to put the party on better footing in next year’s midterm contests and the 2016 White House race. Whether he succeeds or fails could impact the GOP at the ballot box for years to come.

Oh, and there’s this thing about who might run for president.

Most of my sources believe that Walker will defer to Ryan, and only run if the House Budget chairman decides that his political future lies in Congress. But some cautioned me not to discount the governor’s ambition on this front, depending on how his 2014 re-election goes. As one Republican with Wisconsin ties told me:

“Gov. Walker is very supportive of Paul Ryan and will be deferential to a point to see what Paul decides,” this operative said. “Many believe that he wants to go in 2016, but he’s pragmatic enough to know that he can’t get out ahead of Paul Ryan.”