Gov. Scott Walker pulled up his jacket sleeve Sunday evening to show a metal bracelet engraved with the name of a slain soldier. This particular night carried the name of a young man from Oklahoma.
“Every day, I wear a different bracelet from a Gold Star family,” Walker said by way of answering reporters’ questions about Donald Trump’s latest feud, this time with the father of an American Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.
“I respect them. They deserve our respect, no matter what the political situation is,” continued Walker, one of Trump’s failed opponents for the Republican presidential nomination.
Walker was obviously uncomfortable with his party’s nominee doubling-down on attacking Khizr Khan, who spoke at last week’s Democratic convention about his late son, Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan. But Walker said he will campaign for Trump regardless.
“He wasn’t my first choice. I was my first choice,” Walker said. “Going forward, I believe that any of the Republicans running is better than Hillary Clinton.”
That view is not one widely shared here in Colorado Springs, where donors to the network backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch are meeting. Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Koch’s coordinating hub for a sprawling network of policy and political groups, is staying out of the presidential race entirely. Charles Koch said he cannot support either candidate and instead will focus on keeping the Senate under Republican control.
Walker, a longtime Koch ally, is taking a different approach. He might not love Trump, but his fellow Wisconsin Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson, faces a tough re-election bid. A Trump blowout could make Johnson a one-term Senator.
That’s why Walker, the only governor in American history to survive a recall effort, is putting in motion the remnants of his three campaigns in four years to help Johnson. Trump has not yet plugged into that machine.
“Trump has an opportunity. Wisconsin is a tough state for Republicans,” Walker said. “Having said that, I think Trump could win. He’s got to stay focused.” And he has to start doing on-the-ground campaign work. “The organization is going to take some time,” Walker said. The campaign is down to 99 days.