INDIANAPOLIS | Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker praised Hoosier Republicans on Tuesday for blazing a trail of conservative policies that he's followed and implemented in the Badger State.
"Many years ago, before I was governor, before I was even a candidate, I came down here to see Mitch Daniels ... and he gave us some great insights, because for us ... it's not important just to win, it's important to know how to govern," Walker said.
Since taking office in 2011, Walker has largely mirrored Indiana's policies of providing tax credits and other state assistance to businesses, expanding the availability of charter schools and private school vouchers, reducing the power of labor unions and limiting access to abortion.
The potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate told about 900 Republicans attending the party's annual summer fundraising dinner that Republicans across the country need to follow Wisconsin's and Indiana's examples by standing on their principles and leading in optimistic, relevant and courageous ways.
"The pathway forward for us to succeed at a national level is to replicate the success we've had in states that are led by Republicans," Walker said. "People want leadership — we should be the party that leads."
He said there's no need for the GOP to change its positions following the 2012 re-election of Democratic President Barack Obama, which Walker called "a mistake."
Instead, Republicans must have the courage to implement policies that will reduce the dependence of Americans on government, he said.
Walker was introduced to a standing ovation by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who called Walker a "cherished friend" and admitted Walker is his second-most frequent source of governing advice, behind Daniels.
"He's kept his word to the people of his state by taking a stand for economic freedom, for tax relief and reform, for educational choice and equality of opportunity in education," Pence said. "What you see in Scott Walker is character and courage that proceeds from faith."
Hoosier Democrats see Walker differently.
Former state Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, called Walker an "extremist" for signing into law last week a requirement that Wisconsin women seeking an abortion undergo and view an ultrasound, regardless of whether a doctor believes it is necessary.
"There's a clear choice in this country right now between Republicans who want to invade our bedrooms and monitor our doctors' offices and Democrats who are focused on building a strong economy so our middle class can thrive again," Simpson said.
The state Republican dinner was the final event for GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb, who starts a new job Wednesday as state chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.
State Auditor Tim Berry is expected to be elected party chairman by the Republican state committee July 22.