MADISON, Wis. — Likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker made no secret about what he saw as the failures of Mitt Romney's last run for the White House, devoting an entire chapter of his book to the topic.
But it turns out the Wisconsin governor, way back in 2000, also aired sharp criticism about George W. Bush's efforts in his first presidential bid.
Walker, who was then a 32-year-old state Assembly member, wrote an open memo to Bush he titled "Campaign Strategy" in which he offered detailed advice on how he thought the then-Texas governor should be crafting his message to win the presidency, including what type of television ads he should run.
Walker, now in his second term as governor, is expected to launch his own presidential campaign within the next couple months. Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, will likely be among those duking it out with Walker for the Republican nomination.
The open letter to George W. Bush and the Romney critique provide a window into Walker's thinking on how a presidential campaign should craft its message. And while Walker has spent nearly his entire adult life in elected office after he dropped out of college with about a year to go, the 15-year-old memo shows that how to win the White House has been on Walker's mind for many years.
The advice outlined in the 800-word open letter to Bush is typical of Walker, said Mark Graul, a Republican strategist who ran Bush's 2004 re-election campaign in Wisconsin. Graul said Walker also offered unsolicited advice that year and in 2006, when Graul was running the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green.
"In all of my conversations with him about political strategy, it's never been about tearing the other guy down," Graul said. "It's been about what were my guy's ideas and what was the best way to communicate it to the people we were trying to persuade to vote for us."
In his memo to Bush, Walker recommended specific television ads Bush should run to help him win. He said one spot should feature "real life families" of people such as fire fighters, nurses, construction workers and teachers talking about how much they had saved because of Bush's tax cuts.
Those professions — particularly teachers — came out in force against Walker in 2011 when he effectively ended their collective bargaining rights, with his union-busting measure that put him on the national radar and set the stage for his likely presidential run.
Walker said in his memo to Bush, which was first published on his Assembly campaign website, that his thoughts "reflect the views of the vast majority of undecided voters who want a positive reason to vote for the next President of the United States."
Walker told Bush that his campaign theme should be: "They had their chance for the past eight years and they have not led. We will."
Bush lost Wisconsin in 2000 by just 5,708 votes, or less than a quarter of a percentage point, on his way to defeating Democrat Al Gore for the White House.
Democrats said Walker was looking out for himself by writing the memo to Bush in 2000.
"For 20 years, Scott Walker has been running negative campaigns for higher office and doing anything and everything to advance his personal political ambitions," said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff. "The hubris and micromanagement we see from him today were on full display when he told George W. Bush how to run his presidential campaign. Some things never change."
Walker told Bush that he should focus on his work with Democrats and Republicans to pass a middle class tax cut in Texas, and his efforts to control health care costs and improve public schools. As he prepares for what would be his first run for national office, Walker talks about many of the same things that he's done as Wisconsin governor: cutting taxes by nearly $2 billion, expanding school choice programs and kicking people off Medicaid who make more than the federal poverty level, while also qualifying others who had been on a waiting list for coverage. The net effect, as of August, was that about 40,000 more people had coverage than before.
Walker, 47, also casts himself as a "fresh faced" alternative to Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush, who served as Florida's governor for two terms.
Walker's criticisms of Bush are reminiscent of complaints Walker lodged against the Romney presidential campaign in 2012. Walker spent an entire chapter in his 2013 book "Unintimdated" explaining why he thought Romney lost to President Barack Obama.
Walker sent an email to Romney voicing his frustrations about his campaign's tone and urging Romney to show more passion, get out from behind the podium and connect directly with voters.