Wisconsin: The new engine of conservatism?

Gov. Scott Walker is the nation’s most-talked-about governor and a hero on the right for his attempts to roll back collective bargaining rights for state workers—a plan that would also strike a severe blow at the Democratic political apparatus.

In Washington, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is the youthful and articulate voice of entitlement reform, the designer of the GOP blueprint for the nation’s fiscal future. In January, it was Ryan who was picked to deliver the Republican Party’s televised response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Freshman Rep. Sean Duffy, a former prosecutor and reality TV celebrity who won former Appropriations Chairman David Obey’s House seat in November, is heralded as one of the party’s rising young stars. On the Senate side, Ron Johnson, a political newcomer who felled liberal standard-bearer Sen. Russ Feingold last year, represents one of the tea party movement’s biggest success stories.

Wisconsin hands also hold the levers of national party power. Reince Priebus, a former Wisconsin GOP chairman, recently ousted Michael Steele to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. Charged with rebuilding the party’s finances and facilitating GOP efforts to take back the White House in 2012, Priebus named a former executive director of the Wisconsin state party, Rick Wiley, as the RNC’s political director last week.