My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:
It is far too early to write an obituary for Scott Walker’s first presidential campaign, but his transition from frontrunner to afterthought has been swift.
In a very crowded Republican field, Walker peaked as the front-runner in the Real Clear Politics poll average at 17.3 percent April 1. Since then, he has fallen behind the likes of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson to find himself at 5.5 percent in the same poll average.
Investing too much energy in the ups and downs of the latest polls is a fool’s errand this early in the race. The history of presidential politics is littered with the political corpses of people who were popular 15 months before the election. The field is too crowded. The electorate is not paying a lot of attention. And national popularity polls mean little in an election decided by the Electoral College.
But it is clear that that Walker’s campaign has suffered and he has become one of a half dozen viable candidates vying for the Republican nomination. Why?
Part of the reason is that there is a very strong antipolitician vibe reverberating through the Republican voters right now. Almost seven years of an overbearing President Barack Obama coupled with the same almost seven years of weak-kneed Republican Congressional leadership has left Republican voters frustrated and looking for a political outsider to take the helm.
Walker, for all of his accomplishments as governor, is a lifelong politician. Except for a short stint in the private sector after leaving college, Walker has been an elected official for his entire adult life. It is very difficult for a career politician to convince a dubious electorate that he is an outsider even if his accomplishments include massive anti-establishment reforms.
But the other part of the reason for his drop in the polls has to do with Walker’s campaign and Walker himself. Walker’s political success in Wisconsin is rooted in the fierce energy of his supporters. Conservatives who support Walker have turned out in incredible numbers to support his campaigns and cast their votes for him because he has made consequential conservative reforms in Wisconsin. But that conservative support has waned as Walker’s presidential run has matured.
As one of those staunch conservatives who have passionately supported Walker’s policies for years, I, too, feel the same draining of enthusiasm for a President Walker and find myself more enthralled with the candidacies of Carson, Fiorina, and Marco Rubio, but I still think Walker has been the best and most transformational governor of the modern era in Wisconsin. I am still proud of every vote I cast for him and would not hesitate to do so again.
Presidential candidate Walker, however, is not the same as Gov. Walker. Presidential candidate Walker is not the fearless champion of conservatism on the vanguard of political reform that Gov. Walker was. Instead, presidential candidate Walker is a calculating, restrained, packaged, strange anime version of the Gov. Walker we all respect.
As a Wisconsin conservative, presidential candidate Walker’s meddling in Wisconsin’s affairs was more than frustrating. He sat on the sidelines while Wisconsin conservatives pushed for and passed Right to Work and prevailing wage reforms. He denied the Kenosha casino, which would have meant billions of dollars of economic development and thousands of jobs for Wisconsin. He forcefully advocated giving hundreds of millions of tax dollars to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks without even a hint of conservative reluctance to subsidize a profitable private business with the taxpayers’ money. He has spent his time out of state campaigning as conservatives in Wisconsin have continued the conservative revolution he started. And some conservative reforms still undone, like repealing the minimum markup law, would be certain with a strong conservative governor pushing for them.
It is a long time until the citizens of the United States head to the polls to select our newest president. If Gov. Walker were running, he would galvanize the conservative base and have a real shot at taking his brand of revolutionary conservative reforms to Washington. Presidential candidate Walker will refer to this election as “my first try.”