Consider that the supposed “liberals” seeking the GOP’s nomination in the last two presidential cycles were Jon Huntsman, a pro-life, anti-gun-control supporter of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, and John Kasich, author of the last balanced federal budget. But despite this clear shift right, when a very conservative lawmaker can still be viewed as too liberal by many true believers on the right, conservatives’ success in getting one of their own nominated has been limited to exactly two people: Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
Scott Walker represented the best chance to nominate a movement conservative for president since Reagan. The Republican establishment’s power peaked under George W. Bush, whose strong support from fellow evangelicals effectively prevented a serious challenger to his right. Buckley described Bush 43 as “conservative but not a conservative.”
Walker is a conservative. He’s a Reagan-quoting, union-fighting, tax-and-budget-cutting, right-to-work-supporting product of the Goldwater-Reagan GOP, not the party Jeb and George W. Bush’s father hailed from. He also had something no other conservative running for the GOP presidential nomination had: a resume as a two-term governor of a state that was far from monolithically Republican.