Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Crystal Ball report sees Scott Walker as a front-runner in 2016

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Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia Center for Politics took a long look at Governor Scott Walker. Sabato’s Crystal Ball Report puts Walker in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates.

To us, though, there is one name that stands out just a little bit more than the rest, even though he isn’t currently as public because he’s not appearing on seven Sunday TV chat shows almost simultaneously or running a landslide 2013 reelection race in his state. That person is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker’s rise reminds us of the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Darth Vader in the original Star Wars that, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” In Walker’s case, Democrats tried — and failed — to strike him down in a recall election last year. The recall was precipitated by the actions of Walker and his Republican allies in the Badger State legislature to weaken public sector unions. Not only did Walker survive, but this unscheduled political war elevated him to stardom amongst conservatives across the country. If Walker were to become the Republican presidential nominee, Democrats will have helped it happen.

The former Milwaukee County executive saw one of his potential liabilities disappear last month when a long “John Doe” investigation into some criminal activities in his county office concluded. While some aides close to Walker were convicted, he was not accused of any wrongdoing. Granted, the investigation will get a full airing in the national press if Walker runs, but it appears as though he has escaped without real damage and his road to reelection in 2014 looks fairly clear at the moment.

Sabato explains that Republican fortunes in 2016 may depend on winning the midwest. If that’s the case, a midwestern governor might be necessary for the GOP to win.

If Mitt Romney had won these five states — Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — he would have been president, with exactly 270 electoral votes.

Would Walker have some special appeal in these states and, more generally, would he be a strong national candidate? That’s impossible to say at this early point. In fact, it’s an open question as to whether Walker could even deliver his home state of Wisconsin, given that it has gone Democratic in seven straight presidential elections. But it is possible, perhaps likely, that a winning Republican presidential candidate won’t be able to recreate George W. Bush’s winning map from 2004, which included the entirety of the Inner West (including Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico) as well as major states like Florida and Virginia, which with the exception of the Centennial State all have electorates more diverse than the nation as a whole. Rather, a GOP victory might well be won by means of the whiter Midwestern swing states moving to the Republicans, while the more racially diverse states, like previously Republican-dominated Florida and Virginia, vote Democratic for a third straight time.

I still remain skeptical Walker will run, and even more skeptical he can win the nomination. However, he is still getting national attention.

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