In the next presidential cycle, I plan to team up with a major broadcast network to launch a fantasy politics website, complete with drafts, cuts, and (image) injury reports. Frankly, I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it last year; by now, I’d be wealthier than Donald Trump. Still, it would take all my time to keep up with the fantasy roster of political saviors in both parties.
Today, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writes that the buzz now is that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has hot draft potential for the finals in Cleveland. Everyone, check your line-ups:
After Trump’s decisive defeat in Wisconsin, it’s difficult to see how any Republican can clinch the nomination before Cleveland. Trump needs to win an outright majority of the vote in his home state of New York, sweep the Northeastern states in April, win Indiana’s pivotal May 3 primary, and finish strong in delegate-rich California. Cruz needs to demonstrate that his Wisconsin momentum translates into the Northeast, his most difficult region. John Kasich, who has no shot at winning a majority of delegates, simply needs to win somewhere outside of his home state to enter the convention with some momentum. The likelihood of stalemate has never been higher.
Cruz is currently lauding the breadth of his GOP support—getting Jeb Bush and talk show host Mark Levin backing the same candidate is one of his new favorite talking points—but he may soon find his newfound allies will become fair-weather friends if he can’t comfortably cobble together a majority of delegates at a convention. Even some of the uncommitted delegates whom Cruz’s campaign helped elect have said they’d consider other candidates after a first ballot.
But for another candidate to take advantage of convention chaos, it would take an outsider who would be an acceptable second choice for both Cruz and Trump supporters. Ryan is too much of a Washington insider. Mitt Romney is too close to the establishment. Marco Rubio is disliked by too many Trump supporters. Walker, who performed the feat of campaigning for Cruz while avoiding criticism of Trump, is one of the few Republicans left who fits the bill. Don’t be shocked if the candidate who played kingmaker in the Wisconsin primary could end up becoming king in Cleveland.
Be shocked. Be very shocked.
To be fair, this looks at least a little more plausible than the continually reinflated Paul Ryan bubble. Unlike Ryan, Walker actually did run for the nomination, at least for a few months. That technically satisfies the Ryan Standard that the House Speaker has repeatedly issued while emphatically declining a draft for himself at the convention. Walker even briefly led the polling until Donald Trump showed up and upset all the apple carts in 2015. Furthermore, Walker should have been the option around which Trump opponents coalesced, given his track record of real reform in Wisconsin and defeating Democrats who attempted to demonize him.
However, the reason why Walker didn’t provide that rally point is that he didn’t move voters outside of his Wisconsin constituency for very long. Walker has been a great governor and would have likely made a fine president, but he proved to be unready as a candidate — and that’s not a good resumé for a draft nominee at the convention, especially not against Hillary Clinton. Drafting Walker on the floor at Cleveland would hoist an unprepared nominee atop the ticket with no ground organization, zero votes from Republican voters, and little time to come up to speed on policy — with less than four months before Election Day. Besides, if the delegates at the convention end up balking at either Trump or Ted Cruz, they have an escape hatch in John Kasich, who at least made it through the primaries.
Anything can happen at a convention … theoretically. Realistically, the nomination is between Trump and Cruz, especially since Cruz has used his organizational superiority to shape the convention battlefield to his advantage if the nomination gets past the first ballot. Cruz’ delegates aren’t going to countenance a Walker draft, or any other kind of draft either. The speculation is fun, but it’s still fantasy.