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Walker ramps up presidential campaign

Shifting his away to Washington — far away from the stubborn issues facing his struggling state — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is expanding his political operation as he fights for early momentum in the increasingly crowded field of GOP White House prospects.

Despite just starting his second term only weeks ago and facing a ballooning $2-billion budget deficit at home, Walker addressed a Washington audience for the first time this year yesterday. It was a day packed with private meetings and job interviews related to a possible 2016 bid.

Earlier this week, Walker announced the formation a nonprofit group, Our American Revival, designed to raise unlimited amounts of money to boost his political ambitions.

While he has yet to formally announce his intentions, Walker becomes the latest in a group of high-profile Republicans taking significant steps toward launching a presidential campaign. He is less known than some of his potential competitors — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, among others — but Republican officials report rising interest in Walker’s political future following a well-received appearance at a political forum in Iowa.

“There’s a lot of admiration for Walker, but the skepticism was whether he had the charisma to excite people,” said Fred Malek, the Republican Governors Association’s chief fundraiser. “He certainly demonstrated in Iowa that he did.”

In Washington, Walker is expected to sit down with two potential policy staffers — one focused on domestic issues and the other on foreign matters — who may join his campaign in waiting. Aides report that Walker has already hired a national finance director and plans to announce the hiring of a national communications director next week, but the aides refused to name them.

At the same time, Walker is finishing plans to visit early voting states beyond Iowa, including New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Despite the aggressive steps, Walker isn’t expected to join the Republican presidential race formally until after his state’s struggling budget is finalized around June. Walker this week said voters want the next president to be someone who hasn’t served in Washington, a fresh face with a proven record. He said he’s seriously considering a run for president because he sees gaps in the field of likely Republican candidates.

“He’s the kind of person who can bring the party together,” said Malek, who has yet to pick his 2016 favorite. “I’m an admirer.”

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