At the first debate last month, Walker intentionally took a low profile. He didn’t even use all the time he was given to speak. The idea was to seem steady, mature, serious, frontrunnerish. To do no harm, and let the others tear each other apart. After the debate, he and his advisers thought he had done well.
In retrospect, it was a disaster. His supporters—the ones he thought he owned—melted away in droves, abandoning his workaday appeal for the bright lights of the Trump show. Since then, he has not been able to open his mouth without stepping all over himself. Once the beneficiary of more attention than he knew what to do with, he now finds himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
But it’s not the gaffes over immigration that have gotten Walker in the most hot water back home. A couple of weeks ago, in New Hampshire, Walker sought to position himself as an outsider by claiming he had taken on his own party as governor. Republicans had captured both houses of the state legislature when Walker was elected in 2010, but “there were a lot of people in my party, particularly in the legislative branch, who said, ‘You know it’s nice to be in the majority, that means we’ve got a bigger office and more staff and nice titles, but I don’t know that we really want to do all that much more.’”…
Now that Walker is out of his comfort zone and his instincts are clearly failing him, there’s no one to whom he can turn. Many of the consultants who guided him to three electoral victories in four years are not involved in the presidential run. Two of his former close advisers, Keith Gilkes and Stephan Thompson, are running Unintimidated PAC, the super PAC that backs Walker, and federal-election law bars them from communicating with Walker or his campaign.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know if there is somebody there [on the current team] who can tell him ‘no,’” one longtime Walker loyalist told me. This person worries that Walker is throwing the campaign away. “What you see right now is a campaign and a candidate that are chasing ghosts,” the loyalist said. “They’re chasing things that are not there, whether it’s Trump or a different position on this or that issue.”