Thursday, December 1, 2022


Elections are about the future, not about the past. Proven problem-solvers won big in the November elections. Candidates who were perceived as too focused on the last election did not. There is a lesson there for the future.

Republican governors were huge winners all over the country. In previously competitive states such as Florida and Texas, GOP chief executives won in landslides. There were big wins in battleground states like Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire. A Republican incumbent even won by a wide margin in Vermont. 

Each of these governors, plus the others on the ballot, won with large percentages of the vote. In many cases, they outpolled Republican candidates for the Senate and House in their states.

Swing voters look for proven leadership and a vision for the future. In 2012, a significant number of voters cast their ballots for me in our successful recall election and later for Barack Obama in the presidential election. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? 

The two of us are at polar ends of the political spectrum, but swing voters were looking for proven leadership and a vision for the future. We each had taken considerable risks to lead and we each had opponents who wanted to talk about the past without laying out much of a plan for the future. 

Leadership played a large role in the gap between Republican governors with a proven record of solving problems versus those who did not. The winning candidates got their economies and their schools open. They pushed real reforms that helped improve the lives of their constituents. They fought for their citizens and won!

In contrast, many of the federal candidates spent much of their primary campaigns talking about the 2020 election. Some even continued to talk about it through the general election. Swing voters saw this as living in the past and not having a plan for the future.

Don’t get me wrong; I believe that there are problems with election integrity in many parts of America. I have written about it in the past and will likely do so again in the future. As governor of Wisconsin, I signed one of the strongest photo ID-to-vote laws in the nation.

People who were undecided in the general election, however, do not view voter integrity as one of the key issues. That does not mean that conservatives should not advocate ways to improve the electoral process — we should. But don’t let this issue define the campaign. 

Having read this far, many in the corporate media would likely jump on me to say that this means that former President Donald Trump cannot win. That is not true. He can.

For Mr. Trump or any other Republican to win in 2024, voters in battleground states like mine need to believe that the candidate will lead in a way that reflects their real concerns and that the candidate has a plan for the future.

Voters want leaders who are fighting for them, not for the sake of fighting. Be decisive, not divisive in the fight for freedom. In the past, Mr. Trump’s approval ratings were high when the American people saw him taking on the establishment for them, but went down when they thought he was needlessly engaged in battles.

Mr. Trump could win another term if he lays out an aggressive agenda for the future and shows the voters that he is ready to fight for them. That was the key to success for Republican governors across the country.

In 2018, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis barely carried the Sunshine State. In 2022, he won in a blowout while carrying previous Democrat strongholds. Voters saw Mr. DeSantis as a leader fighting to keep the economy and schools open while keeping them safe. He laid out a clear plan for the future.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sailed to reelection after taking decisive action on border security while the federal government was failing to address the crisis. His vision for the future carried large numbers of Hispanic voters and fueled a Republican landslide in the Lone Star State.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds won big after taking on the teachers union bosses to open up schools and provide parents with real choices in the education of their children. She lowered the tax burden and got people back to work. Iowa voters love her positive plans for the future.

Whoever takes the stage in Milwaukee during the summer of 2024 as the Republican nominee must prove that he or she is a leader who has and will fight for the American people and that she or he has a clear plan to get America moving forward after four dismal years of the Biden-Harris administration. 

Elections are always about the future and never about the past. We must show the voters that we can — and will — do better.

• Scott Walker is president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.

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