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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Candidate Profile: #2. Scott Walker

For background to this series, click here. For previous posts in the series:

Tier 4--They Know They Can't Win
16. George Pataki
(15.5. James Gilmore)
15. Lindsey Graham
14. Carly Fiorina

Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win
13. Rick Santorum
12. Mike Huckabee
11. Donald Trump
10. Bobby Jindal

Tier 2--So You're Saying There's a Chance!
9. Rick Perry
8. Ben Carson
7. Ted Cruz
6. John Kasich
5. Rand Paul
4. Chris Christie

Tier 1--The Favorites
3. Marco Rubio

For anyone keeping up with my sidebar, this revelation will come as no surprise. The second most likely Republican nominee is . . .

Scott Walker, 47, Governor of Wisconsin, 2011-current

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.scottwalker.com--"Let's Get To Work"

PPFA Slogan--"Now I am become death, the destroyer of unions."

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +6 (Individual rights: +2; domestic issues: +10; economy: +5; foreign policy: +7). Hey, a rare +10! That's exciting. The only other time we've seen a category at +10 in our countdown was #13 Rick Santorum on the economy. Walker's +10 on domestic issues, which I assumed he was given because, unlike the stereo knobs from This Is Spinal Tap, this scale did not go to 11, will be unpacked shortly.

Conservative Rank based on above: 7 of 16. Am I the only one surprised by how low that number is? But I guess when your competition is Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, and Bobby Jindal, it gets tight at the top.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--The record speaks for itself. Scott Walker is the foremost hero of American politics, and since he's never been captured, Donald Trump might even agree. You won't find a stronger bastion of fiscally conservative governance in this entire field, but he's conservative on other issues, as well. He's 100 percent pro-life, even in cases of rape and incest; he believes in abstinence only sex education; he wants to allow pharmacists to refuse doling out birth control on religious grounds; in 2011 he defunded Wisconsin's Planned Parenthood, an organization which has again been making controversial headlines; he's pushing for a Constitutional amendment to allow states to ban gay marriage; he wants to take the government out of subsidizing clean energy; and he had a 100 percent score from the NRA last year.

But where he really shines is his management of Wisconsin's government. The man epitomizes bravery and conviction in the face of condemnation and persecution. When he came into office in 2011, his state faced a $3.6 billion dollar deficit over the next two years. Governor Walker wanted to put his house in fiscal order, but to do so, he would either need to lay off thousands of public sector employees or making deep cuts elsewhere. He chose the latter, proposing to cut state spending by seven percent, which included slashing $1.25 billion for schools and local governments while also not allowing the legislature to increase property taxes in an attempt to raise revenue. Most controversially, he moved to limit the collective bargaining rights of most of the state's 170,000 public employees, which would prohibit unions from negotiating higher pensions, working conditions, and other benefits, while also increasing the amount of money most public employees had to pay toward pensions and health insurance premiums. The result would be weaker unions, a balanced budget, and minimal layoffs.

The left, still allergic to balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, went nuts. There were protests of tens of thousands of public employees throughout the state. Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to avoid a quorum. National liberals cried foul. Throughout it all, Governor Walker held firm. He eventually passed the bill, balanced the budget, and showed that pure conservatism works. Now he wants to fix the American economy, too, and we should let him.

Spin from opponents--He's a great conservative, no doubt about that. But his record isn't as sterling as Walkerholics suggest, and even if it were, it would still be a huge roll of the dice to nominate him.

As seems to be the daily norm, Donald Trump started talking about something this week and now the ball is rolling. In this case, Trump claimed that Wisconsin is actually a mess thanks to Walker's leadership. There's infrastructure decay, school problems, and worst of all from the perspective of Team Walker, more deficits. A deep dive into google discovers that many people agree with Trump's assessment, even though there always defenders; as always, partisanship helps filter numbers to one's own liking. (For what it's worth, Politifact determined that Trump was playing fast and loose with the numbers, a revelation which shocks me just a little bit more than Sharknado 3 getting bad reviews.) The very fact that both sides cling so closely to their interpretation means that in a general election, Walker will remain divisive like the other arch-conservatives that many consider unelectable.

Meanwhile, other drawbacks persist. Is America ready to elect someone without a college diploma, especially after the last four presidents were Ivy Leaguers? Indeed, each of the last 11 presidents dating back to Harry Truman, who left office in 1953, has boasted a college degree. Before Truman, you'd have to go back to Grover Cleveland, the nineteenth century president that no one knows anything about except for his non-consecutive terms and profile that can only be described as walrusian. Being president is not easy. Do we really want someone to run the executive branch, coordinate the armed forces, and negotiate with foreign counties when he couldn't even survive Marquette with his 2.6 GPA?

Perhaps if he offered a stronger alternative to Jeb Bush's biggest weakness in the party--immigration reform--he could be a more viable candidate. But he's been all over the place on that, from supporting McCain-Kennedy in 2006 (which many say was akin to amnesty), to endorsing a path to citizenship for illegal immigration in 2013, to being totally against amnesty this February, to wanting to limit legal immigration (which even the Brothers Koch encourage) after that. It's been quite the evolution on the party's hot button issue. The conservative base killed Mitt Romney on his "evolutions," so why is Walker getting treated with kid gloves?

How do the polls look?--A theme of the last few entries has been how those who were once doing so well in the polls--Rubio, Paul, Carson--have lately been Trumped. Walker has not been immune. Throughout this year, he and Bush, and sometimes #3 Marco Rubio, went back and forth for the national lead. From February to June, Walker hit double digits in every poll and remarkably hit 25 once. But as soon as Trump popped late last month, Walker fell to single digits for four straight polls before partially righting the ship in the last two weeks. He's now third in the RCP national average behind Trump and Bush.

In Iowa, however, not even Hurricane Donald could blow Walker's house down. The Governor has led every Iowa poll since mid-April, including by six points or more in 70 percent of them. However, cracks might be showing even in his bread and butter state; this past weekend's NBC/Marist poll had Walker's lead over Trump down to two, 19-17. In New Hampshire, where he led six out of eight polls from February to April, he's now down to 8.8 for third place, much closer to the encroaching pack than to Trump and Bush as the leaders. In fact, yesterday's released Monmouth poll had him down to 7 points, where #6 John Kasich, who now has hit 7 in each of the last two Granite State polls, matched him for third place. Things are looking a bit better in South Carolina, where polling has been sparse with only three done from March through June. There, Walker stands at 13.3 for second place, just 0.4 behind Bush. (Relevantly, we haven't had one South Carolina poll since the Trump surge.) There have been seven South Carolina polls this year, and Walker hit double digits in all of them while always finishing in the top three with Bush and local actress Lindsey Graham.

PPFA analysis--It's no surprise he's done so well in the polls. It's hard to overstate just how much conservatives love him as a candidate. The Huffington Post and YouGov recently partnered to take a poll of conservative activists. Unlike most polling done these days, which randomly sample voters across their party's spectrum, these polls focused on big time, informed conservatives. These are Republicans who are already paying close attention and are familiar with most of, if not all, the candidates. Here's what these activists had to say:
2015-07-22-1437597315-824431-ActivistFirstSecondChoice.png2015-07-22-1437597336-5760280-WalkerRubioViable.png

Walker leads all four of these categories: first choice, second choice, can win GOP nomination, and acceptable to most Republicans. Again, these are people who are following closely and familiar with the candidates; they're not just blindly following big names like some of the fanfare surrounding the Trumpeters.

This national conservative idolization of Walker helped him win his recall election in 2012 and then reelection two years later. Come to think of it, it seems like he's the only candidate in the field to have already won a national contest. There was so much attention, outside influence and money in those elections that it really felt like, from coast to coast, people were backing one of the sides. Might his success in these quasi-national contests be a harbinger of 2016?

It's worth noting that the winds have gradually come out of his sails a bit, even before Trumpageddon 2015. If I had done this ranking three months ago, I might have had him #1. There was a period in April where he was on top of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina polls at the same time. A candidate who sweeps those three wins the nomination. Bush, however, has since gained in all three states while solidifying a national lead over him, and in the last few weeks Trump has taken both of their numbers down. The momentum is in the wrong direction, but he still seems the most likely to rally an inevitable anti-Bush movement.

PPFA nomination rank--2 of 16 (Odds: 11:2). Juuust a nose ahead of Rubio. As I've said countless times, Republicans love executives. There's also polling support for Walker over Rubio, including nationally and in those early primary states.
  • Walker's national RCP average is 11.7 to Rubio's 6.8, with Rubio leading Walker only once in the 15 polls since the beginning of May.
  • In Iowa, Walker's leading 19.3 dwarfs Rubio's eighth place 6.3. Rubio has not once led Walker in a 2015 Iowa poll, and his shortfall has only grown in the last two months.
  • Walker's 8.8 in New Hampshire is stronger than Rubio's 6.0; in the 22 New Hampshire polls dating back to last summer, Rubio has only defeated Walker in one of them (and only 12-11 at that).
  • Finally, in South Carolina, Walker's 13.3 more than doubles Rubio's 6.0, with Walker leading Rubio in every Palmetto State poll this campaign cycle.
The trends are so one-sided that Walker gets the nod at #2.

Why behind Bush then? I'll get much more into it on Friday. You might be wondering, "But IC, those charts from conservative activists proved how much more excited conservatives are about Bush than Walker, and they even think he's more electable!" I can see why you thought that, but since the foundations of my arguments are almost invariably laid by straw men, you read too much into it. With those charts come caveats. The article itself revealed that "polls at similar points in previous elections suggested Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, and Dick Gephardt could end up as major-party presidential nominees. (None did.)" Activists are good to have for canvasing and fundraising, and they without question help a campaign, but it doesn't necessarily lead to widespread support from the general population. I imagine, in 2011, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry excited conservative activists a lot more than Mitt Romney did. I'm also fairly certain that well prepared soup did, too.

Instead of activist adoration, I expect the race to come down to endorsements and money. On Friday, we'll take a closer look at each as I make the case for Governor Bush at #1.

PPFA general election rank--5 of 16. He's comfortably the highest ranked far right conservative in this category because I was and continue to be impressed that he won his recall and reelection despite his divisiveness across the country. Twice the entire national left aligned against him, and twice he was nonetheless victorious. It stands to reason another national victory is realistic.

One... more... candidate. I'm so tired. Please tell your friends and follow me on Twitter @PPFAmerica.

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