Strengths, weaknesses of Scott Walker's presidential bid

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 13, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Wisconsin governor and now declared Republican candidate for the White House Scott Walker speaking there for about 40 minutes to a crowd of supporters in Waukesha, portraying himself as a fighter and referring to his resume as governor where he won three elections, including a recall.

He said, quote, "We took on the unions and we won." Not surprisingly, he took a number of shots at Washington, calling for a repeal of ObamaCare and to, quote, "reign in the federal government's out-of-control regulations."

Walker structured this speech by saying what he is for -- reform, growth, safety -- he referenced President Ronald Reagan several times, and introducing one of the 52 American hostages held by Iran in 1979 who was in attendance there. Walker said, quote, "We need to terminate the bad deal with Iran on day one," calling for leadership, talking about American exceptionalism. Walker officially threw his hat in the ring.

Let's bring in our panel now from Waukesha there in Wisconsin, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, here in Washington, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Steve, you are there, you get a feel for things. Your thoughts on the speech?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. I thought this was a very good, solid, workmanlike speech from Scott Walker. You knew that he was going to spend a lot of time talking about his record in Wisconsin. But he didn't really focus on that as much as I think many might have expected. For those people who have watched him through this exploratory phase, he talked exclusively about his record. What he did in this speech was turn forward and laid out the vision for America that he wanted to lead. I thought it was a good speech and a good launch to what's going to be an interesting campaign.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, THE HILL: I think you saw the roadmap there to the campaign, which is win Iowa. Right now he is up big in Iowa.
I think he is up like 17 to nine.

BAIER: The RCP average has it at 17.8 to Bush's 9.8.

WILLIAMS: So what he is doing here, and you saw this, it's almost like a laundry list in the speech, is he goes through very strong conservative positions, everything from opposing Obamacare, antiabortion.
But then he comes to, and I think this is what has made him a superstar among Republicans and why he has the lead in Iowa, his ability in what he calls the blue state of Wisconsin, to take on the unions, to fight the unions back. In fact, to win in the repeal, the effort to throw him out, he won again. So he is won in 10, won in 12 and he has hopes to win in 16.

BAIER: All right, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This was more I think a stump speech than a soaring announcement speech. But in essence that is exactly who Scott Walker is and how he's running. That was a workmanlike speech. He is a workmanlike guy. And I think his appeal is not so much the rhetoric. It's the fact that he has been there in Wisconsin. He did this. He took on the unions, was challenged again and again, overwhelming opposition from Democrats around the country pouring in money against him, and he succeeded. And he has a record. I think that's the essence of him.

He tried to put it in grand language that was much more a governor than a president speaking, but I think that's why he is appealing. It's a
straightforward campaign with conservative principles.

BAIER: Steve, Hillary Clinton earlier mentioned three candidates in the speech, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio. The Walker campaign had to be happy about the mention. What about Juan's point about going right to win Iowa and how that plays there in the Walker campaign?

HAYES: Sorry, Bret, I couldn't hear exactly the end of your question there. But Hillary Clinton did mention Scott Walker in her speech. She was -- certainly that's a gift to Scott Walker. The campaign has been sending out notes, pointing out that Hillary Clinton attacked Scott Walker.

I think what he would like to do is take those attacks and turn them into momentum as he goes into announcement week. He is going to try to convert -- he has wide support in both public and private polling as either a first choice or a second choice in particular in many of these early states. What I think he wants to do in this first week and the second week of this announcement rollout is turn a lot of that second choice support into first choice support and see if he can get a little bump out of the announcement.

BAIER: OK. It's pretty loud there. Thank you, Steve. Juan, Charles, obviously as we look at Governor Walker still shaking hands there in Waukesha, our show was a little truncated. He is I think the third candidate who has chosen SPECIAL REPORT to launch a campaign, so we gave it to you here live. Of course, we'll have it all covered for you ahead of the big debate less than one month in Cleveland.

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