Novi — Although he hasn't officially declared his intention to run for president, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sounded as though he was stumping for votes Monday during a speech in Oakland County.
Walker took shots at Hillary Clinton, saying if she were elected it would be "a third term of Barack Obama's policies"
"Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tend to measure success by how many people are dependent on the government," Walker said during his 30-minute keynote speech to a sold-out crowd of 1,000 at the Oakland County Republican's Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser. "We should measure success by just the opposite, how many people are no longer dependent on the government."
Describing himself as a problem-solver willing to confront big government, Walker touted his efforts in his home state to defund Planned Parenthood, sign concealed-carry doctrine, require photo ID to vote and passage of right-to-work legislation.
"I'm proud to say there is no seniority or tenure," he said. "We can hire the best."
Earlier in the day, Walker told The Detroit News he will announce his plans for seeking the Republican presidential nomination as early as next month.
"Our state's budget is done in June. It's a two-year budget," Walker said ahead of the fundraiser. "Once I'm done with that — that's still my primary responsibility — after that I'll make an announcement on what my intentions are."
Although he is considering a presidential run in what could be a crowded field, Walker declined to criticize fellow Govs. John Kasich of Ohio — who is considering a run — and Rick Snyder of Michigan, who has said he is watching how the presidential field develops.
He said the Midwest has produced leaders who have done "big, bold things."
"We've taken on, we've fought and we've won time and time again for hardworking taxpayers," Walker said. "If we were to get in the race for the highest office in the land we could do the same thing for everyday Americans."
The Daily Beast website reported last week that Walker owed between $10,000 and $100,000 to credit card companies in 2014 based on a financial disclosure statement.
The governor disputed the amount cited in the report before his speech.
"That's people who are looking to stretch things. ... At the end of last year we had a couple thousand dollars, not a couple hundred thousand as some imply," Walker said Monday.
"We've got two kids in college and finished off paying off a bunch of bills. We're not unlike most Americans. When you've got a mortgage and two kids in college, it's not the easiest thing.
"... I think most Americans want someone in office who can relate to them. There's no doubt we can relate to people who are trying to pay a mortgage, try to keep their kids in college and pay the bills back home."
Walker's Wisconsin financial disclosure filing indicates he had $5,000 to $50,000 in debt with a Barclays Master Card and $5,000 to $50,000 in debt with a Sears Master Card at the end of 2014 — about four months ago.
Walker was elected in 2010 and in 2014, and defeated an effort to recall him in 2012 over the issue of public-sector union reforms.
Snyder signed a right-to-work bill into law in 2012.
Walker made his comments the same day Dr. Ben Carson, a Detroit native, announced his presidential bid in his hometown and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced her candidacy.
During his speech, Walker said that he would "repeal Obamacare once and for all," reduce government regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and rein in taxation.
"There is a reason we take a holiday on the Fourth of July and not the 15th of April because in America we celebrate our independence from the government," he said to cheers.
The presidential hopeful talks about the field of GOP presidential contenders, the Great Lakes, and credit card debt. David Guralnick, The Detroit News
The 47-year-old has been criticized for his lack of foreign policy experience, including by Obama. During a February visit to London, Walker declined to answer foreign-policy questions, including how the West should combat the Islamic State group.
He sought to tie Clinton to Obama, saying she advised the president on foreign policy for four years as secretary of state.
"It's clear to me that now more than ever, America and the rest of the country needs a commander-in-chief who will stand up and say radical Islam is a threat to this country. We need a president who will say Israel is an ally and actually start acting like it," he said.
"We need to have a president who will look the American people in the eye and have the courage to tell them the truth ... I'd rather take the fight to them than have them take the fight to us."
Walker also spoke mid-day Monday to an Ingham County Republican Party luncheon in Lansing before heading to Novi.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party attacked Walker's record Monday through a statement released by the Michigan Democratic Party.
"Middle-class families can't afford someone like Walker, who makes drastic cuts to education, transportation and infrastructure, just to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires," said Mike Tate, Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman.
About 100 people protested outside the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi before the speech.
Walter Sobczak, a retired teacher from Novi, said he is bothered by Walker's treatment of teachers and unions.
Novi High School health teacher Chandra Madafferi also was protesting Monday night. The South Lyon resident said she was hurt when Walker linked terrorist attacks to Wisconsin teachers at Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
"I have a problem with that, comparing teachers to ISIS," said the 16-year teacher. "He's out of touch with the middle class."