MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker denies he's a career politician — even though he has been in elected office since he was 25 years old and first ran for office when he was 22.
The 47-year-old Republican presidential contender said in an interview with CNBC, released Tuesday, that he is "just a normal guy" and rejects the career politician label despite being in politics for most of his adult life.
"A career politician, in my mind, is somebody who's been in Congress for 25 years," Walker said.
Walker ran for the state Assembly representing Milwaukee in 1990 when he was 22 and lost. He then moved to a more conservative suburb and ran again in 1993 and won. He hasn't lost an election since.
Walker served nine years in the Assembly, eight years as Milwaukee County executive and is now in his fifth year as governor.
After being considered a top-tier candidate earlier in the year, Walker has since fallen behind Donald Trump in polling and lost ground to other candidates with no government experience, namely retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former technology executive Carly Fiorina.
Walker said in a Fox News interview on Tuesday that he understands the attraction outsider candidates can have — because he is one.
"They want people who will take on Washington, who will shake things up, and I agree with that," Walker said. "Heck, I'm an outsider. I was one of the guys who took on the Washington-based power structure right here in the state of Wisconsin. They tried to come after me in the recall election. They failed."
Walker was targeted for a recall in 2012 out of anger over his push to effectively end collective bargaining for most public workers. Walker won the recall, making him the first governor in U.S. history to defeat such an effort.
In the CNBC interview, conducted Aug. 21, he was asked whether he was too reliant on white voters to win nationwide. He said he could win in a dozen states that essentially determine an election, as he sees it.
"Wisconsin's one of them," he said. "I'm sitting in another one right now, New Hampshire. There's going to be Colorado, where I was born, Iowa, where I lived, Ohio, Florida, a handful of other states."
Walker has shifted to a more aggressive tone in recent weeks, increasing criticism of fellow Republicans.
Trump donated $10,000 to Walker's 2014 re-election campaign for governor, something Walker noted in the interview. Walker said Trump never asked for anything in return because he viewed Walker as different from other politicians.
"His words were, to me, 'I like you 'cause you're a fighter,'" Walker said.
But in late July, a Walker fundraiser referred to Trump as "DumbDumb" in an email.
"I've been nice to Scott Walker," Trump said after that. "He's a nice guy. He came up to my office like three, four months ago, presented me with a plaque because I helped him with his election."
Trump went on: "I liked that he was fighting. I didn't know what the hell he was doing, but he was fighting and I like a fighter."
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