Darren Hauck/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Scott Walker likes to wear inexpensive clothes.
It’s a fact the Republican presidential candidate quite literally wears with pride, pointing out on one occasion that he was wearing a sweater that was purchased for just $1 at Kohl’s department store. Another time, he took to Twitter to brag about the slashed price on a tie — also purchased at Kohl’s — that he wore for a nationally televised interview.
Walker brings up the topic of Kohl’s with such frequency that it’s almost as if he’s become a living, breathing advertisement for the Wisconsin-based bargain retailer. And if you’ve listened to him give his standard campaign stump speech, chances are you’ve heard his Kohl’s story — perhaps more than once.
“Some of you know that Tonette and I like to shop at Kohl’s,” Walker says, easing into the story of how he became a Kohl’s-convert through his wife, who frequents the retailer with her family several times a month.
Early on in their marriage, Tonette reprimanded her husband for purchasing something Kohl’s at full price, Walker has said. It was an error he made only once. He has since gone on to become a Kohl’s cash-carrying, scratch-off coupon evangelist in his own right.
Walker’s telling of the Kohl’s shopping experience climaxes with him and Tonette at the cash register, prepared to buy an already marked down shirt with an extra discount, thanks to a scratch-off coupon. But the savings don’t stop there.
“As the clerk is ringing it up, Tonette swoops into her purse and pulls out some of that Kohl’s cash,” Walker says, scanning the audience for reaction.
When the story goes over well, at least one audience member will visibly react, providing Walker with an opening to connect with a fellow Kohl’s enthusiast. “You know what I’m talking about,” Walker replies, pointing to the audience member.
“Next thing you know, they’re paying me to buy the shirt,” Walker says in a surprised tone. ”Well, not really, but it seems like it, right?”
Walker uses the story to pivot into a discussion on fiscal policy, weaving the Kohl’s business model into the fabric of his own politics.
“That’s what I think about your money, the taxpayers’ money,” Walker says. “The government can charge you a higher rate and some of us could afford it. If you lower the rate, broaden the base, we expand the volume of people who can participate in the economy.”
It all rides on a Reagan-era tax strategy that Walker has taken the liberty of renaming to fit into his Kohl’s brand.
“Back then we used to call it the Laffer curve. Today, I call it the Kohl’s curve,” Walker tells audiences.
“I believe you can spend your money far better than the federal government, when we do, the economy will get a whole lot better,” he continues.
It’s a volume-based, frugal-minded approach to taxing and spending that Walker hopes will find appeal among middle- and working-class voters with an eye toward their pocketbooks.
After all, it’s the same strategy that his wife Tonette has been applying for years — pre-dating her politically aspiring husband — to balance her pocketbook.
“Tonette shopped there long before we were married,” Walker told ABC News.
“People now come up to us at events and show us their Kohl’s cash or their 30 percent off coupons,” Walker said. “It is very funny.”
While Walker’s passion for Kohl’s is unrivaled among the field of Republican presidential candidates, it remains to be seen if he can convert the Kohl’s cash-carrying bargain shoppers he connects with on the trail into voters at the ballot box.
Walker has recently slipped in the polls in the all-important first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, a state in which he had maintained a solid lead for the better of 2015. Iowa is seen as a must-win state for Walker, who is the governor of a neighboring state.
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