From reading the comments on my Romney post, some people are absolutely sick of hearing about the former Massachusetts governor. Oh, and I pretty much agreed with what everyone had to say about a third presidential run by Mr. Romney. With that said, let’s focus on someone that conservatives and establishmentarians can agree would be a good candidate for president: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Mr. Walker is a governor of a blue to purplish state, he has executive experience, a political network already assembled, and he’s battle-tested. He’s survived a concerted effort by the left to erase him from the political landscape–and he’s beaten them every time.
Right now, Walker is focused on his legislative agenda, which some say is a move to strengthen his conservative credentials. While he will make his 2016 intentions known this summer, Politico mentioned that Walker’s team is trying to find the right moment to announce Walker’s presidential bid if the governor decides to dive headfirst into the 2016 pool. Namely, they’re looking at Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty, who entered the race too early, and Texas Gov. Perry, who tossed his hat into the ring too late.
Right now, his moves certainly look as if he’s interested in moving his family to Washington (via RCP):
Walker is making moves ahead of 2016, to be sure: he hired a top national strategist to run his campaign, with more senior staff hires coming soon, and is creating a political entity to allow him to raise money and travel. He is boning up with regular policy briefings and is traveling to Iowa next week for an early GOP cattle call. But Walker’s approach is more tortoise than hare, steadiness over speed.
Walker isn’t vying to be the top contender in the Republican field—at least not yet. He’s carving out a spot now as Second Best, a candidate who can build consensus among voters seeking an alternative to the establishment or far right, who will be ready if and when a preferred candidate falters.
“He could be the No. 2 choice of a lot of people, and being No. 2 is not a bad place to be,” says a GOP strategist familiar with the field.
Walker seems to think so. While Bush, Romney and Christie compete for the establishment lane, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others seek out the conservative base, Walker is fashioning himself as something of a hybrid, capable of winning the hearts of the base and the minds of the center-right.
Walker’s take-no-prisoners approach with unions over collective bargaining rights catapulted him onto the national stage. He survived an expensive recall election in 2012 that put him on the map of possible presidential contenders and won re-election in November by six points—running as a conservative in a state that has chosen the Democratic candidate for president since 1984.
While Walker is well known for the union fight, he is known among activists as a conservative Christian who signed concealed-carry legislation in Wisconsin and pushed the legislature to repeal Common Core standards. Walker is also directing his attorney general to file a lawsuit over federal energy regulations he said would hurt manufacturing. He is pitching himself as a leader with battle-tested skills who can effectively manage the government while advancing conservative principles.
Notably, in a recent Republican poll of GOP contenders in Iowa, Walker garnered 10 percentage points, fourth behind Romney, Bush and undetermined candidates chosen by respondents who hadn’t made up their minds.
In his state of the state speech Tuesday night, Walker prioritized government reform. “I believe that government has grown too big and too intrusive in our lives and must be reined in, but the government that is left must work,” he said. “As taxpayers … we should demand a government that is more efficient, more effective, and more accountable to the public.”
In his inaugural address, Walker reiterated the points about state government, along with expanding school choice, improving infrastructure, and making sure every child, regardless of their socioeconomic status, has the ability to prosper with the right education and skill set.
As for entitlement spending, Walker touted that the Badger State has the only solvent retirement system in the country:
Our retirement system is the only one fully funded in the country. The state’s pension and debt ratio is one of the best. And Wisconsin’s bond rating is positive.
Over at the New York Times, Nate Cohn wrote that Walker “shows promise” as a 2016 candidate:
Unlike the flawed but better-known conservatives, Mr. Walker has the potential to have broad appeal throughout the Republican Party. Mr. Walker, born in Colorado Springs, is an evangelical Christian who defeated public employee unions in a high-profile battle over collective bargaining rights and who made big budget cuts in a state that has voted for Democrats in seven consecutive presidential elections.
Yet unlike most conservative heroes, Mr. Walker has the record, résumé and temperament of a candidate who could attract significant support from the establishment. Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, may be the only other candidate with a similar profile, but he is not as well known and has taken fewer steps toward running. Last week, CNN reported that Mr. Walker had brought on Rick Wiley, an experienced Republican operative, who would be the campaign manager if Mr. Walker were to run.
He naturally speaks the language of cultural conservatives, frequently invoking faith and God, which is crucial in the Iowa caucuses. In 2012, evangelical Christians represented 57 percent of Iowa caucus-goers, according to entrance polls. It is not at all obvious that Mr. Walker’s Midwestern persona, which may strike some as lacking sizzle, is a negative on the prairies of Iowa.
In the end, Mr. Walker will have to capitalize on his opportunity, and prove as compelling on the campaign trail and in debates as he is on paper. If he does, he would be a far more serious contender for the presidential nomination than many of the candidates who have received substantially more news media attention over the last few years.
Yet, Cohn did note that Walker could be left without a base of support if the Tea Party goes for Ted Cruz, and religious conservatives coalesce around Mike Huckabee.
Then again, Walker sort of already knows that the road to the White House isn’t an easy one:
Strong leadership, combined with Midwestern nice, there’s just a certain appeal to that,” Walker said.
“You look at the Electoral College map and what’s required to win. A good chunk of that runs through the Midwest,” Walker said. “There’s Florida, Virginia, out West — Colorado, Nevada – maybe New Hampshire depending on the year – but really most of the rest of the map is Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa. It’s all kind of right there. At least in recent political history, that’s kind of where it happens.”
As I wrote over at Townhall, these states aren’t exactly slam-dunks for Republicans in national elections.
Michigan and Pennsylvania haven’t gone Republican in presidential contests since 1988; Iowa has flipped only once in that time period (2004); Nevada only twice in 1992 and 1996; and Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, and Florida are solid swing states.
As for New Hampshire, the state went Republican in 2000. In the 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012 presidential elections, the state has gone to the Democrats.
Then again, Walker isn’t someone to shy away from a challenge. With Barack Obama more than likely leaving the presidency with low approval ratings, and the country thirsting for something new after eight years of a Democratic president, it’s hard to say how 2016 will go for either party.
What we do know is that Hillary is nothing new, and she doesn’t carry the aura of change that enamored Obama voters in 2008. She’s eminently beatable, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Sen. Cory Gardner’s ousting of then-Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado and Ed Gillespie’s RAZOR thin loss in Virginia should give Republicans hope of being competitive in those states. In Florida, the GOP candidate just has to do slightly better with Hispanics to win; Obama carried by a slim margin in 2012. Of course, Ohio is always the wild card for the GOP.
On a positive note, Republicans seem to have caught up with Democrats in the tech game played during national elections. So, hopefully, no huge deficits in this area for 2016.