Gov. Walker refuses to rule out presidential run

Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

Gov. Scott Walker still harbors the ambition to become president of the United States, and it stirs memories of the late Harold Stassen who ran nine times for the White House.

At the recent Republican National Convention, Walker wouldn’t rule out another presidential run in 2020, 2024, or even 2036.

“I could wait 20 years and still be younger than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,” Walker told reporters in Cleveland. “From my standpoint, I’m in no rush. We’ll see what God’s calling is in all of this.”

Walker was the first Republican to enter the 2016 race but dropped out when both poll numbers and donations plunged.

Stassen was a major Republican player in the 1940s and 1950s. He won three Minnesota gubernatorial elections, the earliest at the age of 31. His success made him the “boy wonder” and was the keynote speaker at the 1940 Republican National Convention.

He resigned in 1943 to join the U.S. Navy where he served on the staff of Adm. William Halsey in the Pacific.

President Roosevelt appointed him as one of the American delegates to the convention creating the United Nations. He is credited with pushing the language allowing United Nation collective action.

He was an early bird in politics, indicating in 1946 he would seek the Republican presidential nomination for the 1948 election. He was considered a front-runner until he was defeated by Thomas Dewey in the Oregon primary.

Before then, the polls showed Stassen could easily defeat incumbent Harry Truman. Truman scored an upset after Dewey ran a lackluster campaign that largely ignored issues.

Stassen was the leading centrist candidate for the 1952 Republican nomination --- until Dwight Eisenhower announced for the office. Stassen would release his delegates to help push Ike to the nomination.

Eisenhower named Stassen to a cabinet-level position working on disarmament talks with the Soviet Union.

But Stassen’s position in the Republican Party collapsed when he led an effort to dump Richard Nixon from the GOP ticket in 1956. Historians say Stassen thought Eisenhower wanted a different vice president.

Stassen would run for the GOP presidential nomination five more times and his efforts would make him a joke. The media would call Stassen the “Grand Old Party’s Grand Old Loser.”

In his later campaigns Stassen would show up wearing what biographers would call a bad toupee. At a stop in the State Capitol in Madison, for example, he would appear before a campaign picture as a balding candidate.

Stassen received bachelor and law degrees from the University of Minnesota. He served several years as president of the University of Pennsylvania. He also would be a leader in the American Baptist Church.

But the political bug remained. He tried unsuccessfully to win elections as governor of Pennsylvania, mayor of Philadelphia and other offices.

Stassen’s early achievements were left to history. He had become a tragic figure in politics.

Walker’s presidential ambitions may also play a role in how history judges him.

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