There were plenty of well-received speeches during the day from Sen. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, but it was their home turf. The Freedom Summit, put on by Rep. Steve King and Citizens United, was a gathering of the base of the Republican base. But it was a bit of a SkyMall event—while there were lots of offerings it wasn’t clear if there was a place for the most exotic ones. Donald Trump, for example, may say he’s considering running for president, but it’s as hard to believe that he will be president as it is to understand the need for an Eye of the Dragon Mystical Safe Box.
Walker did the most to help himself politically, elevating his stature as a candidate who might achieve the elusive synthesis of pleasing the party base while also attracting a general election audience.
“Wow he’s good,” said Jane Hodoly, as Walker spoke. Later, in an interview, the Tea Party member from Ottumwa, Iowa said, “We need a warrior in the presidential office.” Walker, who retold the story of his battle with the unions (along with the death threats he faced) and what it took to win three elections in four years (including becoming the first governor to survive a recall) appealed to this desire. “If you are not afraid to go big and bold, you can actually get results,” Walker told the audience. Pat Scanlon, another Tea Party member, from Oskaloosa, Iowa said: “I wish he were our governor.”