I ask who he favors. “Well, up until about six months ago, it would have been Marco Rubio. But now, I like Scott Walker.” Is this because of Rubio’s immigration activism. “Yes.” Later, I mention Bobby Jindal. “I’m from Louisiana, and I don’t think that Jindal could get elected now in his own house!” Bayham concludes. This is a fairly common assessment. Bill Barrow, a Louisana native who is covering the convention for AP, suggests to me over dinner that Jindal has blown it: ”I think people underestimate how lucky Jindal was to win in ‘07. If Katrina hadn’t hit, he’d have lost in 2007 as he did in 2003. His approval rating now is terrible.”
Scott Walker’s name is mentioned a lot. But something about the way it is invoked bothers me slightly, and I can’t wondering about the extent to which he is benefiting from being unscathed and — nationally at least — untested. Walker is a successful governor of Wisconsin — a blue state – and an avatar for the reform of union excess. But at some point, he’ll annoy people just as everybody else has. Rubio has upset many with his immigration bill; Jindal has, many claim, been found wanting; Paul Ryan was on a losing ticket in 2012, as was Sarah Palin; Rick Santorum lost a primary, as did Rick Perry; Chris Christie irritated some Republicans when he appeared to be so chummy with the president just days before an election; and Rand Paul is, among this crowd at least, mistrusted for his libertarianism. Scott Walker is certainly an impressive man. But, talking to the attendees, I’m left wondering to what extent he remains a Rorsach test onto whom the rank and file can project their desires without pushback.