Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has a double-digit lead over the rest of the GOP presidential field in early-voting Iowa in a new automated poll.

Walker pulls 24 percent with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at 10 percent apiece, according to a new poll conducted by Gravis Marketing for the conservative website Town Hall…

The results are the latest to show Walker on the rise, though these are much better numbers for him than other recent surveys that have found no candidate higher than the mid-teens.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has erased U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s strong lead among Texas Republicans in the volatile and still-developing race for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Cruz’s 25 percentage-point lead over Walker in October has vanished: The Texan won the support of 20 percent of the state’s registered voters to Walker’s 19 percent — a statistical tie. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and author Ben Carson were tied at 9 percent, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was next at 8 percent…

“This is the first real shakeup in this that we have seen,” Henson said. “We’re now a year out from primary season. It’s not really a race yet, but it is a shift, and people are probably starting to think about it.”

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Walker was by far the biggest draw at the governors’ event at the JW Marriott, and the contrast with other likely 2016 Republican candidates was conspicuous. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, coming off a banner year as chair of the Republican Governors Association, avoided the media and spent Saturday in private meetings before leaving town. That prompted a New Jersey reporter to ask Walker why Christie didn’t subject himself to questioning from reporters, too…

Amid all the attention, Walker said that he’s already been through what was tantamount to a national campaign.

“It’s similar,” he said Saturday of his 2012 recall election. “I obviously had, other than the presidential race, probably the most highly-scrutinized race in 2012. I was the No. 1 target of all the major national unions this last cycle – not just amongst governors but also the House and the Senate.”…

“It was a special test: the level of intensity and national focus,” said Hutchinson, who heaped praise on every current and former Republican governor looking at the race, including Mike Huckabee. “That was a serious test of his strength and his resiliency. It also gave him a national profile.”

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Few issues fire up a good chunk of conservatives more than personal attacks against President Obama. At the same time, these attacks also turn off swing voters and minorities that the Republican Party is trying to court. And this is the situation that Scott Walker now finds himself in, after refusing 1) to comment on Rudy Giuliani’s assertion that Barack Obama doesn’t love his country, and 2) declining to weigh in on whether Obama is a Christian. Notable conservatives have cheered Walker’s rhetoric (see Erick Erickson here) and blasted the media for asking these types of questions. (What was the point of asking Walker about Obama and Christianity? That’s what many conservatives and Walker defenders are asking. It only feeds their skepticism of the MSM press.) Yet other conservative writers, like Matt Lewis, argue that this rhetoric is only going to alienate other voters. “In their minds, Walker is some sort of folk hero for providing that inept answer. But I can assure you, that’s not how the majority of Americans (who aren’t conservative activists on Twitter) will see it,” Lewis contends. (After all, just look at the career trajectories of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann). What’s more, as Democrat Robert Gibbs said on “Meet the Press” yesterday, if you’re stirring up controversies on the EASY questions, think what happens when they become HARDER as a presidential candidate. Here’s the thing about playing with fire: Sometimes you frighten your opposition by doing something they couldn’t do — or ever dream to do. Other times, you get burned.

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“At the height of the [anti-budget] union protests, when we were approaching 100,000 protesters at and around the Capitol, I finally got wise,” Walker tells Ham and Benson in an interview for the book. “I started holding press conferences at 5:00 because I knew that if I kept it concise, local television and some national outlets would cover it live. So I had an unfiltered way to talk to the state for about 10 minutes.”…

“They started to get really loud right around 5 p.m.,” he says in the interview. “I’d be speaking to the press, and they’d make lots of noise. On one particular day, they were louder than they’d ever been, and a reporter asked me if those people had a right to be heard. And I said that they had every right to be heard, but that I wasn’t going to let tens of thousands of people — and some were bused and flown in from other states — drown out the voices of millions of people around Wisconsin who elected me to do exactly what I was doing.”…

Walker’s seizure of an unadulterated media space in Wisconsin highlights both an eye for media opportunities and an underrated experience in front of a presidential campaign: the incredibly intense media and activist environment that followed changes he made to public-sector collective bargaining. Few other candidates will have been at the center of scrutiny like that, and so recently in terms of an truly online media environment.

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But the governor is also making an aggressive effort to win the hearts of the party’s Christian conservatives. In doing so, he is stressing a much harder line on social issues than he did just a few months ago, when he faced a robust challenge from a well-funded Democratic woman in his run for re-election as governor…

Mr. Walker does not appear to be rewriting his positions on specific issues; instead he is trying to redraw his political image from a fiscally minded governor who warned his party not to be distracted by divisive social issues to a conservative presidential candidate who will fight hard for these issues. He is also reframing his fight with public employee unions from a fiscal showdown to part of a broader culture war…

While Mr. Walker is courting Christian conservatives, he is also competing against former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida for support from elite donors around the country. Mr. Walker hopes to emerge as a bridge candidate who can attract the party’s establishment-oriented wing and its more conservative, heavily evangelical grass roots.

Creating such a coalition — as George W. Bush did in 2000 — would make Mr. Walker a formidable candidate in a nominating process that features socially conservative states like Iowa and South Carolina, along with more fiscally focused voters in New Hampshire.

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Walker wasn’t gonna answer it and he didn’t answer it, so the media is left to accuse Walker of being a coward or a bubkus or a Midwestern hick not qualified for the office.  He may not even know what evolution is, they say.  That’s why he won’t answer it.  He’s a coward because he won’t answer because he doesn’t know.  And he doesn’t know because he didn’t go to college.  This guy’s really a reprobate, they want you to believe. 

The truth of the matter is, the media has been denied a scalp.  They were looking for Rudy’s scalp, and by extension, they wanted Scott Walker’s scalp.  They wanted Walker to condemn Rudy, or, better, they wanted Walker to defend Rudy.  They wanted Walker to say, “Rudy’s right.  You know what?  I don’t think Obama loves America.”  Oh, they would have been nirvana if Scott Walker had said that. 

Instead, he threw it right back at ’em:  You know, I don’t recall you guys going out and asking other Democrats what they think whenever Joe Biden opens his mouth, or whenever Joe Biden starts nuzzling the neck of some woman that he barely knows, right there on camera, I don’t recall you media people ever asking any of these Democrats to explain themselves.  You talk about the Koch brothers this and that.  I don’t recall any of you running around and asking Democrats about their questionable donors and the source of their big bucks. 

And I can’t tell you, it is music to my ears.  It is the exact way to handle it.

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There are no real class divisions in America except one: the college-educated versus the non-college educated. It helps to think of this in terms borrowed from the world of a Jane Austen novel: graduating from college is what makes you a “gentleman.” (A degree from an Ivy League school makes you part of the aristocracy.) It qualifies you to marry the right people and hold the right kind of positions. It makes you respectable. And even if you don’t achieve much in the world of work and business, even if you’re still working as a barista ten years later, you still retain that special status. It’s a modern form of “genteel poverty,” which is considered superior to the regular kind of poverty.

If you don’t have a college degree, by contrast, you are looked down upon as a vulgar commoner who is presumptuously attempting to rise above his station. Which is pretty much what they’re saying about Scott Walker. This prejudice is particularly strong when applied to anyone from the right, whose retrograde views are easily attributed to his lack of attendance at the gentleman’s finishing school that is the university.

That brings us to the heart of the matter. I have observed before that left-leaning politics has become “part of the cultural class identity of college-educated people,” a prejudice that lingers long after they have graduated. You can see how this goes the other way, too. If to be college-educated is to have left-leaning views—then to have the “correct” political values, one must be college-educated.

You can see now what is fueling the reaction on the left. If Scott Walker can run for president, he is challenging the basic cultural class identity of the mainstream left. He is more than a threat to the Democrats’ hold on political power. He is a threat to the existing social order.

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Walker’s team kicked into overdrive [during the 2012 recall] and hasn’t really stopped, both in GOTV efforts and fundraising. Data-driven and determined, they acquired the list of recall petitioners and used it to modify their voter contact rolls. They opened the doors and welcomed help from any organization willing to join their efforts, and pushed those who could to vote early. Then-Slate reporter Dave Weigel trekked to Wisconsin in May, and came away stunned by the scale of the operation. Walker’s fundraising network is 300,000 donors strong, and believe me, his staff stays in constant contact with each and every one of them…

The attempt to boot Walker by Wisconsin progressives and labor activists accomplished a rare feat: absolute party unity. But instead of unifying Democrats enough to unseat him, it created a brief moment where libertarian, establishment, Tea Party, and traditional conservative members of the Republican Party united to defend him. He just wasn’t some guy: he was their guy and, damn it, they were not going to let him fall. This unity didn’t end with the recall: Walker received a jaw-dropping 96 percent of the Republican vote in 2014 per the exits, and election analysts have frequently pointed to him as the possible “bridge candidate” between the money and masses within the party. Again, without the recall challenge, would he be enjoying such overwhelming party support as he does now? Would he even be dipping his toe in the water?

The ferocity of the anti-Walker attacks during the recall attempt cannot be understated: no stone was left unturned, no “scandal” or slip of the tongue left unmentioned, and this may only help candidate Walker going into 2016. The Democrats spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours digging, scooping, ad-cutting, and hammering. They threw the kitchen sink at the guy in 2012, threw their neighbor’s sink at him in 2014, and now nobody on the block will let them inside to pee. Out of useful topsoil, what do they do now?…

They shot the king and missed, making a balding, sleepy-eyed executive into a god among a growing horde of followers. That’s bad enough for the Progressive set. In the unlikely event he wins the Republican nomination and the presidency? They struck the match that ignited their own national hell.