Saturday, August 24th, 2019

What caused Walker to fail?


Waukesha Freeman 9/24/2015 Page A6 Opinion

What caused Walker to fail?

GOP needs serious candidate to lead party

Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race on Monday. He returns to a state that is as divided over his presidential campaign as it was over his policies.

Trying to analyze the end of the Walker campaign is like watching the debate at the end of “A Bridge Too Far.” Was it Nijmegen? The single road? The fog?

The immediate cause of the Walker presidential campaign’s end was money, of course. Despite the large sums packed away by the super PAC, the important number was the amount in the actual campaign fund. Walker’s campaign was going through cash like George Steinbrenner buying free agents for the New York Yankees.

Unlike Steinbrenner, Walker didn’t have the personal resources to keep the campaign going. Rather than limp into the Iowa Caucus, do horribly, and then drop out, Walker decided to end the agony now.

But the money problems were a symptom, not a cause.

Obviously the rise of Donald Trump had the most immediate impact. Trump’s popularity can best be described as Republicans joining Democrats in the post-reason era of politics. When the one candidate in the Republican race who stood against everything Republicans supposedly believed is getting so much attention, it’s a sign that the electorate is not being serious.

(I’m a writer, not a politician. I can say these things.) But Trump’s rise did not hurt all campaigns equally. Walker’s campaign was especially damaged while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is still hanging in there while Sen. Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina are actually moving up.

Walker’s campaign for president had the same advantages of his campaigns for governor. Walker appealed to all sections of the Republican Party: the so-called establishment, conservatives, social conservatives, tea party, and so on.

But Walker’s campaign decided to pander on the immigration issue. At first it made Walker, whose brand was an authentic conservative, look like a typical inauthentic politician. Then it got worse when Walker couldn’t even articulate well his new position on immigration.

Then Walker got bogged down in the whole “birthright citizenship” debate, an issue settled in the 19th century. Then, unfair or not, Walker was accused of saying he wanted to build a fence along the Canadian border.

When you’re trying to position yourself as an alternative to an unserious candidate like Trump, you can’t afford to look unserious yourself. The immigration issues made Walker appear to be unserious.

Finally, we can point at the conditions under which Walker was running. It was always going to be hard for a Wisconsin governor with a bland personal style to attract attention to himself. But with so many candidates in the race, television and even the alternative media is going to be attracted to the more outré candidacies.

Republicans have now lost two very successful governors from the race. The front-runners are now a member of the Bush family, a billionaire known more for his celebrity feuds than any accomplishment, a brain surgeon known for his appearances on Sean Hannity’s show, and a former CEO of a technology company.

Hopefully the electorate will become serious before they actually start voting in New Hampshire and Iowa.

*** As Humphrey Bogart said to Victor Laszlo in Casablanca, “It seems that destiny has taken a hand.”

As if to remind the governor of the awesome responsibilities of his current office, state Supreme Court Justice N. Patrick Crooks died Monday afternoon in his chambers. Crooks was a disappointment to Wisconsin’s conservatives who had hoped he would be a consistent vote with the court’s conservative bloc. Instead he often (though certainly not always) voted with the court’s liberal wing.

Crooks recently announced that he was not running for re-election in the spring. It would have been a difficult run for him had he chosen otherwise. With liberals and conservatives against him, he lacked a base of support.

Three candidates had already declared they were running for the court vacancy. Of the three, Judge Rebecca Bradley is the conservative choice.

With Crooks’ passing, Walker will now have the opportunity to appoint his replacement rather than wait for the election. Walker will likely appoint Bradley to give her the advantage of incumbency in next spring’s election.

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