MADISON, Wis. – Stepping closer to an all-but-inevitable White House bid, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has created a "testing the waters" committee that allows him to raise money for a presidential campaign.
The two-term Republican governor has already been raising unlimited political donations through a tax-exempt group since January. And in April, former senior aides created a super PAC to bring in even more.
The new committee allows Walker to raise money for the first time that will be controlled exclusively by him and his prospective campaign.
"Americans want to hear more about what worked in Wisconsin and how Walker's reforms can work across the country," Walker adviser Rick Wiley said in statement to The Associated Press announcing the move. "In the past several months many have urged him to run for president, and he has decided to take a serious look at running."
In many ways, Walker has been testing the waters for most of the year. He has been assembling a large campaign staff based in Madison in addition to traveling the country extensively, with a focus on early presidential voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
Donors and political operatives expect Walker to enter the race in mid-July after he signs the state budget into law. The Republican-controlled Legislature has been at an impasse for nearly three weeks, delaying passage of the plan that Walker had hoped would have been done by now.
Anthony Scaramucci, a leading fundraiser four years ago for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, told the AP that he's already committed to helping Walker raise money.
"Walker's more focused on doing the right thing than trying to fit in," Scaramucci said recently in Utah, where he introduced Walker to former Romney donors. "I don't see the other guys having the same backbone."
Walker is in a final wave of high-profile Republicans expected to join the 2016 contest. Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal plans to make an announcement on June 24 while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are expected to get in the race soon.
While the first voting contest in the Republican primary season isn't until February, the first presidential debate is less than two months away. Only declared candidates will be allowed to participate.