Scott Walker limps toward 2016

If Walker survives once more on Tuesday, it will represent another win for the divide-and-conquer strategy he has used since 2010 to become the dominant political figure in this traditionally Democratic state. It will also mark a downward revision of Walker’s own aspirations: Instead of realigning Wisconsin behind a new vision for conservative reform — and perhaps vaulting himself into the White House in the process — Walker is struggling to assemble a bare majority that will keep him in the job he has.

At campaign stops this week, the 46-year-old Walker shouted himself hoarse defending his record on job creation, an unexpectedly contentious point in his record. Coughing into his left hand while greeting voters with the right, Walker wore a bandage on one thumb — from a hunting accident, he said — and shocked his allies in Washington by complaining openly that the national GOP hasn’t done enough to help his campaign…

But Walker is no longer touting a dramatic success story that he could easily cut and paste into a presidential campaign. He and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, emphasize more bite-sized accomplishments, like sending a $322 rebate to Wisconsin taxpayers this year. Walker drew roars of approval from a crowd this week with his insistence that recipients of public assistance take “a simple drug test.”