Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is no fan of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He didn’t accept an expansion of Medicaid or set up a federal healthcare exchange. But he has a message for other Republicans who may be looking to exploit the White House’s political misfortunes: “Don’t spike the ball.”

“In the end, it gives me no comfort that there are people in my state who will fall through the cracks because of the failure of the federal government kind of puts them in no-mans land,” Walker said, “I think as Republicans, people across America are going to expect us to be as disappointed as they are.”

“I think Republicans need to be careful so that in no way do we look like we’re piling on,” he continued. “Because if you do, my guess is the next move on the left will be to try and seize on it if that were to happen, look, somehow we sabotaged this, that we’re the ones to blame. It’s a ridiculous intellectual argument, but from an emotional standpoint, you can see how it could happen.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) says he supports a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally as part of an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.

“If people want to come here and work hard and benefit, I don’t care whether they come from Mexico or Ireland or Germany or Canada or South Africa or anywhere else,” Walker said Tuesday during an interview with the Daily Herald Media Editorial Board of Wisconsin. “I want them here.”

Walker was then asked about the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. The editorial board asked if he could “envision a world where with the right penalties and waiting periods and meet the requirements where those people could get citizenship?”

“Sure,” Walker responded. “I mean I think it makes sense.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is an eagle scout and a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. One thing he isn’t is a college graduate, and that may soon change.

Walker left Marquette University in his senior year before finishing his degree. In a meeting with reporters last week hosted by National Review, Walker explained the surprising gap in his resume. In his second and third years at school, Walker worked part-time for IBM in Milwaukee. Shortly before senior year, the local IBM office was relocated to Illinois, but Walker’s client, the American Red Cross, offered him a job, which turned out to be full time.

“The reason I went to college, in large part, was not just to get an education for an education’s sake, but to get a job,” Walker said of his decision to drop out of school. At first he tried to be a part time student, but quickly the births of his children took that option off the table.

The missing bachelors may seem odd, but it’s one reason Walker’s appeal in the GOP is only rising.

“I was asked by Jon Karl [of ABC News] who my ideal candidate would be,” Walker said at the gathering known as the New York Meeting. “I didn’t rule people out. I said to me, I think it should be a governor. … If we’re going to beat somebody like Hillary Clinton, we’ve got to have somebody from outside of Washington who’s got a proven record of reform, and frankly to me that could be any one of the 30 Republican governors.”

Walker also took a shot at the last Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, when a panelist asked how Republicans could win if an economic message like Romney’s wasn’t enough in 2012. Walker said that Romney “would have been a spectacular president” but that his message failed to break through.

“If Mitt Romney ran on an economic message, he could have fooled me, because I didn’t hear it in Wisconsin,” Walker said to scattered applause.

If you are a Republican and you like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, then you probably already have your candidate for the 2016 presidential campaign. If you do not like Christie, then your candidate for 2016 is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

“[N]o one checks as many boxes as Walker does,” as an Iowa GOP strategist puts it. Walker has near hero status in the grassroots for taking on Wisconsin’s public sector unions. Cruz talks about taking stands on principle, but he lost his fight. Walker took a stand, was targeted by the full force of the Democratic machine, and stayed alive. He won a recall election with a larger margin than his original victory. He raised $30 million for that race, so he knows how to tap wealthy donors. Social conservatives also consider him one of their own for his pro-life views and his pedigree: His father was a Baptist minister.

Jindal and Perry have supporters in conservative circles, but Jindal can’t match Walker’s union-slaying story and Perry’s accomplishments won’t help him overcome the memories of his disastrous 2012 run. If the incentive is to pick a Christie alternative who can survive, it also helps if the candidate comes from a battleground state—even better if they come from a swing state in the Midwest. Walker also brings helpful connections to Iowa, that early caucus state. Besides governing in nearby Wisconsin, Walker grew up in Iowa. Right now GOP operatives describe the competition in the Hawkeye State as one between Rand Paul (whose forces control the state party) and Sen. Ted Cruz (who excites the base).

Beyond that, he’ll have to decide if he wants to go up against Ryan, should his longtime friend and ally decide to run. This seems even more improbable than a Jeb Bush vs. Sen. Marco Rubio face-off. If Walker decides to go forward, he’ll need to figure out if he can compete for fundraising dollars with such figures as Christie, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), all of whom have much higher visibility and established national fundraising networks. He’s unlikely to be able to match these contenders up front, so like many candidates (e.g. Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum) he will have to do well in Iowa (certainly possible since he is right next door and a household name) to propel him into New Hampshire and beyond. That means a lot of time in a neighboring state. Beyond that (quite a bit, I grant you), he needs to put in place a presidential campaign-level team and get up to speed on foreign policy.

But the question he and every other candidate will have to answer is: Why him? “Everyone’s second choice” was not a winning formula for former governor Tim Pawlenty. And chances are there will be more than one governor in the race, so executive achievement may be necessary but not sufficient to put Walker into the top tier. It’s hard to slice up the electorate so finely as to separate himself from other contenders. The more-conservative-than-Christie-but-less-than-Perry governor? I’ve yet to find many (any?) party activists who don’t like Walker, but goodwill will wear off quickly if he doesn’t have a robust campaign and message.

Christie doesn’t have the implicit trust of the GOP’s conservative base, so his hopes rest on reassuring them and arguing he’s the most plausible candidate because of his successes in a blue state.

But that argument will be a lot more difficult to make if Walker enters the race…

Not only can Walker cite executive experience under tremendous odds, he is still revered by a broad swath of conservatives for his bruising battle with the Wisconsin teachers’ unions over his education reforms in a way that Christie is not.

On a gut level, most conservatives would say of Walker that he is “one of us” — that he thinks and governs like a conservative rather than being a candidate who merely spouts conservative talking points when it suits his political ambitions…

It’s too far in advance to be anointing frontrunners in the 2016 presidential race. But if Walker runs, he could prove to be Christie’s worst nightmare.