There’s talk today of a poll boomlet for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. And he’s clearly demonstrating that he’s serious about running for President.
It’s probably a given that I’m not a huge fan of Scott Walker’s. And I do not think he’d be a terribly strong general election candidate. But I do think, as I mentioned a few months ago, that he’s much stronger than is generally understood and a more viable candidate than most of the other potential candidates who get vastly more coverage and speculation.
Let’s start with the essential fact: Walker has stood for and won elections for Governor of Wisconsin three times in four years. For technical, term-length reasons, that is extremely uncommon. But it’s pretty uncommon just in general terms. These were each races that were heavily, heavily contested, from inside and outside the state. And perhaps most significantly, Walker won these races after pushing through major, structural conservative policy changes. It’s one thing for a Republican to win in a blue or purple state, push through a tax cut and get reelected. That’s not what happened. Walker delivered on big big policy changes. To me, they were terrible policy changes. But they were big. And he did that and won three times in four years on what is at best a purple state – a lot of good arguments it’s blue. Republicans have not carried Wisconsin since the Reagan blow-out of 1984. It’s hard to say how that isn’t a really blue state.
The other part of the equation is everyone else. I’m skeptical of how strong a contender Jeb Bush would be. But he’s definitely viable on really every front. Two other frequently mentioned contenders – Rand Paul and Ted Cruz – would never survive first contact with a national electorate. And I doubt they’d do well enough in the primaries to get there. Marco Rubio, well, at this point it’s almost mean to talk about him as a potential presidential contender. He’s either too big a turncoat on immigration or just too inept or too big of a doofus to have any chance.
I’m not sure how well Walker plays nationally. I don’t think he’s that strong a candidate – but I also didn’t think he’d survive a recall. But the key is that he has in spades several of a the critical attributes of a governor who makes the presidential jump. And the rest of the field – beside Jeb Bush – is far far weaker than most are willing to admit.