Could Scott Walker become president?


So let’s stipulate that this is a ridiculous thing to discuss. Presidential politics is big and dumb and actually not nearly as interesting as a million policy fights and local issues I can think of. We are a long way away from 2016. We probably don’t even know what the big issues are going to be yet.

But it’s summer. And if you like politics at all this kind of speculation game is a bit of a siren song. And meanwhile it is plainly evident by his actions that Walker is planning to run. So let’s indulge.

Does Scott Walker have a shot at the GOP nomination?

A little background:

Here’s Byron York of the Washington Examiner noting Iowa’s enthusiasm for Walker. Here is Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin singing his praises.

On the other hand, here is an entire clip from the smart site Bloggingheads.tv in which a liberal and a conservative pundit discuss the “wide-open 2016 presidential field” without ever even mentioning the words “Scott Walker.” It is all Marco Rubio and Chris Christie and Rand Paul for them:

My own opinion is that Walker totally could win the nomination. The field has some strong candidates, but many of them also have pretty significant flaws, to wit: I don’t know whether or not Chris Christie is too moderate for a GOP primary, but I feel very confident that he is definitely too “Jersey.” I don’t mean his weight, I mean his whole style — fun on YouTube, appealing in the northeast; totally off-putting in most other parts of the country. Paul has some problems as a national pol. Bobby Jindal is seriously unpopular in his home state. Rubio hasn’t torpedoed his chances with his work on immigration reform, but I don’t think he’s improved his standing by supporting a bill conservatives hate that probably isn’t going to pass anyway.

This sounds insane and probably is, but I think Jeb Bush could have a shot at the nomination. So my own list of frontrunners for the GOP nomination would be Rubio, Bush and Walker .

(Btw I am taking it as a given that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Should I not do that? It seems like a near-certainty.)

Walker’s big advantages are the bond he forged with conservative activists through the recall and his ability to seem totally a part of the conservative movement but also, as a governor rather than a DC guy, sort of separate from it. He’s also shown the ability to rake in huge dough from donors, the importance of which cannot be overstated in a national race.

His disadvantage? I think it’s possible Walker could fall prey to the Tim Pawlenty effect. Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, seemed like a formidable 2012 candidate on paper, but in the actual execution of the campaign he fizzled seriously. He just was sort of bland, a poor debater, not an inspiring figure in any way.

In Wisconsin, Walker has used his relatively flat affect to put a moderate face on what has been by any measure a very conservative policy agenda. In personality terms, he is the anti-Christie — he’s not a firebrand or a confrontational speaker. That hasn’t made him less of a lightning rod, obviously, but I think it has helped him weather Wisconsin’s political storms.

But people do look for a base-level emotional connection with their presidential candidates that I’m not sure they do in their governors. Can Walker provide that?

About Robert Mentzer

I am the opinion editor at Daily Herald Media.
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