Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker addresses the American Action Forum in Washington on Jan. 30, 2015.
Yuri Gripas—Reuters
January 30, 2015 2:24 PM EST

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came to the nation’s capital Friday to attack Washington’s culture, dismiss its wisdom and call for removing its power, offering new clarity on his strategic approach for earning the chance to live downtown by winning the 2016 presidential election.

“Washington is kind of this top-down, government knows best,” Walker said to an audience of about a half-dozen supporters and more than 50 members of the media who gathered just a block from the White House. “It’s a tired, old approach that hasn’t worked in the past and I don’t think will work in the future. What I see in the states and for the people outside of Washington is a craving for something new, something fresh.”

Walker, who is deep into preparations for an all-but-certain bid for the Oval Office, called for a “transfer of power” from Washington, D.C. to the states. He called the city “68 square miles surrounded by reality,” with six of the 10 richest counties in America, according to the median income. “We need to transfer power, power from our nation’s capital here in Washington back to the cities and states in this country, where the people, where the hardworking people in this country can actually hold their government accountable,” he said.

“That’s what Our American Revival is really about: Transferring that power from Washington back to the people,” he said, referencing the name of his new 527 organization that is laying the groundwork for his presidential bid.

It was not the first time that Walker positioned himself as a Washington outsider, a strategy that he hopes will give him an advantage over other prospective candidates like Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who work weekdays in the city. But it was his most muscular expression to date of his role, ready to take on and slay the sacred cows of the beltway power networks. Walker’s tour comes on the heels of a well-received speech in Iowa before Republican activists last weekend, and just days after announcing his new 527 organization.

He also took time to criticize President Obama’s State of the Union speech. “That sounded like a person who wants to grow the economy here in Washington,” he said. “I think the rest of America wants to grow the economy in cities and towns all across this great nation.” He also quoted Ronald Reagan’s admonition that The federal government did not create the states, the states created the federal government,”

His true guides, he continued, were the nation’s founding fathers, whom he said he always looked up to as a child. “I was a little geeky,” he said. “I actually thought of our founders almost as super heroes. Bigger than life.

Walker was introduced by Republican financier Fred Malek, a former Green Beret and aide to Presidents Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, who effusively praised the presidential contender. “I can’t think of anybody I’d rather be in that foxhole with our in that firefight than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker,” he said, calling him a “terrific leader.”

Asked by Malek about tackling the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Walker remained vague. “To me it’s not a matter of if there’s another attempted threat,” he said. “I’d do everything in my power to make sure families in this country would sleep safe.” He added that he would “take the threat to them.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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