Walker's supporters erupted with cheers as the governor spoke following his victory.
Ardent supporters of Scott Walker dutifully filed into the State Fair Park Exposition Center in West Allis Tuesday night confident their beloved governor would emerge victorious. But after weeks of news that Wisconsin's governor's race was razor-close, anxiety over a potential upset was palpable. The tension didn't last long.
When ABC News called the race for Walker at 9:20 p.m., a wave of relief and revelry erupted inside the cavernous expo center, where Walker's campaign party was held.
"We came here thinking we would be here until 2 in the morning," said Dan Klouser, a supporter from West Allis. "We are in awe."
If there were any doubts that early projections of a Walker victory were premature, Brian Schimming, vice chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, put them to rest by giving the crowd a simple thumbs up from atop a camera platform. Schimming later said Walker's strong performance in the Fox Valley sealed the deal.
"The Fox Valley was a battleground in this race," Schimming told Isthmus. "Walker spent a lot of time there; I know Mary Burke did too. The numbers for Walker were exceptionally strong."
Brad Courtney, chairman of the state Republican Party, credits a 22-month strategy of identifying voters and getting them to the polls for the GOP's decisive victory.
"We were identifying a lot more voters than we ever had," said Courtney. "This has been the best ground operation in the history of our party."
Republican lawmakers at the rally saw Walker's third statewide victory as redemption for the wave of recalls that followed the Act 10 protests in 2011. State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) called it a new chapter in Wisconsin politics.
"I think we'll have four years without recalls, without a lot of dissension, for us to work together to decide how to move Wisconsin forward," Darling said.
With the GOP back in full force in the Legislature, Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said lawmakers are eager to get back to work. Expanding the school voucher program and restructuring Wisconsin's tax code will be among the party's top priorities.
"We still need to make [Wisconsin] more competitive with states around the country," Nygren said, referring to how Michigan repealed the personal property tax and became a Right to Work state. "All those different things we need to compete with in order to attract and retain job creators."
Walker was greeted with raucous enthusiasm when he finally arrived in West Allis around 10:30 p.m. His remarks were brief and almost identical to the stump speech he's delivered on the campaign trail. But with reelection squared away, Walker's comments to the adoring crowd might very well be his first definitive foray into presidential politics.
"I have friends around the country that are very excited about a Walker presidency," Nygren said. "I'm selfish; I'd rather keep him here in our state, but that's a decision he'll have to make."