In his new book released this week, Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker reflects on the political firestorm he survived at home in 2012 — and diagnoses what went wrong for the national party.
In an interview Wednesday with Morning Edition's Renee Montagne, Walker said that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not give voters an "optimistic, visionary view of how the presidency would be different under him," allowing President Obama's campaign to define him as a "rich guy who only cared about guys like him."
Romney's infamous "47 percent" comment didn't help counter that narrative any, Walker added.
"To win in a state like Wisconsin, I think people respect those even if — like with me — even if they don't agree with everything or every way I've done something, they respect people who are looking out for everyone, or at least attempting to, Walker said. "Unfortunately, Republicans did not carry that message forward at the national level."
Walker, who faces re-election in 2014, also had some measured criticism for the way congressional Republicans handled the last round of budget negotiations, which led to a federal government shutdown.
"I think the federal government, in particular, is too big, too intrusive in our lives, and needs to be narrowed and focused," Walker said. "But for what's left and what's necessary— for what really is necessary in government— we should make it work. And my frustration was, I don't think that shutting things down show that you can make it work."
Much of Walker's book recounts the divisive 2011 budget battle that has defined his political career. Just weeks after taking office, Walker proposed eliminating collective bargaining rights and cutting other benefits for most of the state's public employees. The move led to mass protests at the state Capitol and ultimately to a 2012 recall attempt in which he prevailed.
Walker, now a conservative hero who hasn't ruled out a run for president in 2016, told Montagne he has some regrets about how the whole episode played out.
"I was so eager to fix things that I came in and just fixed them without talking about them," Walker said. "What I learned, in retrospect, is you need to do both."