One prospective candidate at the Centennial Institute's Western Conservative Summit stood out for bringing considerably more than good ideas and talk. As the final act of Saturday night, Colorado Springs native and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker displayed a record of recent results no other candidate is likely to match.
As the 47-year-old Republican leader of a Democratic state - which hasn't favored a Republican for president since Reagan in 1984 - Walker became the number one target of 100,000 left-wing activists who forcefully occupied the Capitol and tried to overthrow him in a 2012 recall. As such, the two-term governor has won three gubernatorial elections in five years.
Before his first election in 2010, Wisconsin unemployment stood at 9.2 percent. Today, it is 4.5 percent. Wisconsin's labor participation rate is above the national average. Walker inherited a $3.6 billion deficit; today he has a surplus. The state's "rainy day fund" is 165 times larger than the day Walker took office. He has the only fully funded state pension in the country.
In taking on labor unions, Walker ended tenure for teachers and policies that rewarded them mostly for seniority. Walker prefers rewarding teachers for high classroom scores and other good results. Today, Wisconsin schools hire and fire almost entirely on a basis of merit. The result: reading scores and graduation rates are up, and Wisconsin has the second-highest ACT scores of all states that require the exam.
Most recently, Walker enacted the country's 25th right-to-work law.
"That means people have the freedom to work without being forced to be in a labor union," Walker said.
Walker's economic and education policies should help him attract fiscal conservatives and the business community. He also has a record that could win the hearts of social conservatives. They were not impressed with the Republican Party's last two nominees and stayed home in droves on election days.
"We defunded Planned Parenthood and passed pro-life legislation," Walker told the crowd, which responded with applause. "We passed the Castle Doctrine (right to defend property with a gun) and concealed carry so people in Wisconsin can defend themselves, their families and their loved ones if they are law-abiding citizens."
Though his results-driven leadership style brought out the worst in protesters, it has ushered in an unlikely political revolution. In last fall's election, Republicans increased their majority in the Wisconsin Senate and secured the largest GOP majority in the state's assembly in more than 50 years.
"If we can do this in Wisconsin, we can certainly do it in Washington and all across America," Walker said.
As the a two-term governor of our country's 20th most populated state - elected three times - Walker has a near-perfect resume for the country's highest executive office.
If Walker emerges as his party's nominee, he will have an enviable pool of potential running mates. Either U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Texas and Florida, respectively, could help deliver Hispanics - the country's most important swing-vote demographic. Either could help a northern governor in southern states. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina would offer an intellectually and rhetorically powerful hedge against Hillary Clinton, who presents the appealing prospect of a strong woman in the White House. Dr. Ben Carson could deliver grass-roots conservatives and minorities who are tired of polished politicians.
Only upcoming caucuses, primaries and/or the Republican National Convention will determine which man or woman the GOP will run. But the Western Conservative Summit assured conservatives they have a new and dynamic executive leader able and willing to run on an impressive record of success.