MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday he is seriously considering whether to get into the race for president in 2016, but he hasn't decided yet whether he feels the call to run.
"My personal process is I have to feel like it's a calling, particularly for the time and the effort and the impact it has on family and friends," Walker told AP in a telephone interview from Boca Raton, Florida, where he is attending the Republican Governors Association meeting this week. "It's not something you should yearn for..."
Walker, who won re-election to a second term in November after becoming the nation's first governor to defeat a recall in 2012, said it was "pretty obvious" that running for president is something he should consider.
Walker has taken several steps to keep his name in the mix as a potential GOP contender. Walker published a book in 2013 about his effort taking on public unions that spurred his recall election, he's traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire, and has courted large conservative donors, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Elected governor three times in four years, Walker commands unusually strong loyalty among conservatives in Wisconsin. Exit polls after his re-election two weeks ago showed he won the votes of 96 percent of Republicans. That kind of support from the party's far-right activists, extended nationally, could fuel Walker's viability in a wide-open fight for the GOP presidential nomination.
But for now Walker said he's focused on passing his second-term agenda and a state budget, a process that likely will consume most of the first six months of 2015.
"I have to continue to make sure that the state's performing at the best possible level to even be considered as a candidate," Walker said.
The 47-year-old son of a preacher, who has been in elected office since he was 25, said his priorities in the coming months are establishing his cabinet leaders and staff, setting his legislative agenda, and introducing a two-year state budget in either late January or February.
The state legislature typically passes the budget in late June, but Walker has said he wants to be more aggressive this year and possibly get it done earlier. The time it takes to pass the budget is a factor in his timing for deciding on whether to run for president, Walker said.
"You've got to look at what are my important responsibilities because unlike someone in any other position, unlike someone in the Congress or the Senate or any other elected position or former elected position out there, my leadership in the state is both a strength and potentially a liability," Walker said. "If I continue to do good things, people will continue to talk about me for other offices. If somehow things aren't working for the state of Wisconsin that diminishes my ability to consider anything else."
One potential distraction that Walker is taking off the table is running to succeed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential 2016 rival, as chairman of the RGA. Walker said he's not interested in the post because he couldn't be fully committed to it as he considers a 2016 run.
Walker said he's waiting to see if he feels the same pull into the 2016 presidential field that inspired him to run for governor and re-election.
"I spend a lot of time not just talking with people but praying about, thinking about with my family as well whether or not eventually that might be a call to run for the presidency," he said. "I think you shouldn't run unless you feel you're called to do it."