MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker spent Thursday in his neighboring state.

The potential Republican presidential candidate had three private events, including an unannounced visit to the State Capitol for a meeting with Republican state lawmakers.

Walker spent the day connecting with the state’s GOP establishment ahead of a likely run for president.

He met privately with Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt before a meeting with 100 GOP lawmakers and staff, telling reporters afterwards they talked about reform ideas he tried in Wisconsin that could work in Minnesota.

“The need for more reform, reform that will put more power back in the hands of lawmakers and governors in states like Minnesota, like Wisconsin, others out there,” Walker said.

Daudt praised Walker as a reform governor whose ideas are sparking Republican interest.

“Somebody who has worked on reforming the way government runs and trying to do things more efficiently,” Daudt said. “We talked about ideas that we might be able to share and bring here to Minnesota.”

The state’s Democrats were incredulous, citing statistics to show Wisconsin lags far behind Minnesota in most economic quality-of-life rankings.

“It’s a mystery to me why Scott Walker thinks that Minnesotans would embrace his ideas of governing when he’s turned a once-proud state like Wisconsin into a shadow of its former self,” DFL State Party Chair Ken Martin said.

Walker was re-elected as Wisconsin’s governor last year, after a turbulent first term in office in which he fought labor unions and public employees .

He says Wisconsin’s economy is much improved, and he blamed Democrats for leaving him a budget mess when he took office.

“Before we came into office, for many years there was a Democrat governor, Democrat assembly, Democrat Senate,” Walker said. “But you look at where we were at, where we started, where we’re at today, there’s been a dramatic change.”

One thing Walker says he did not talk about was running for president. Thursday’s Capitol meetings were classified as official state business, and Walker told WCCO he won’t announce his presidential plans until after the Wisconsin legislature adjourns in June.

Walker says comparisons between Wisconsin and Minnesota are out of context, and Wisconsin has made strong gains since he took office, and he’s right.

But Wisconsin has not made the gains, or recovered from the recession, as strongly as Minnesota.

Pat Kessler

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