R.I.P. Walker’s Presidential Candidacy
Moments after I turned in my column Monday boldly declaring
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential candidacy was dead as a doornail, The
New York Times sent out the first story breaking the news that Walker was
pulling out of the race.
It seemed ridiculous for the campaign of anyone touted for months by the media as a leading contender for the nomination to vanish four months before a single vote was cast.
But then, of course, Walker’s candidacy already had vanished before everyone’s eyes almost the instant it was exposed to a nationwide television audience in the Republican debates.
By the second debate, Walker had plummeted from the top of early polls to become a bottom feeder, attracting only 2% or 3% in national polls. After Walker disappeared in the second debate as he had in the first, a major poll Sunday put his national support at less than half a percent.
So what happened? How could someone relatively unknown nationally be considered a leading candidate out of the gate and then plummet so drastically and so rapidly?
Precisely because Walker wasn’t widely known, some folks attributed political strengths to him that actually turned out to be glaring weaknesses nationally.
The false premises propping up Walker’s candidacy related to personality and political beliefs. Those factors combine in a really unusual way in Wisconsin.
Even many of the legions in Wisconsin who loathe Walker’s divisiveness acknowledge one of his political strengths is a low-key, mild-mannered persona that allows him to come across as a nice guy personally.
It enables charisma-free Walker to put a bland façade on what are truly reprehensible, right-wing policies that cut jobs and wages for working people, punish people in need, devastate education at every level and deny women the right to make their own health decisions even when their lives are at risk.
But when advisors tried to get Walker to ramp up his passion in the national campaign to push to the front of that unruly mob of Republicans, he came off like a mouse with delusions of grandeur trying to puff itself up to roar.
When a small-time Midwestern governor threatens to “wreak havoc” upon Washington, D.C., heart-stopping terror does not sweep the Capitol.
Rabidly Right Wing
One obvious error the national media made early on about Walker’s candidacy was to assume that Walker’s moderate tone somehow made him into anything remotely resembling a moderate Republican.
Repeatedly, political reporters unfamiliar with Walker described him as a candidate who somehow could appeal to both wild-eyed, tea party extremists on the far right as well as the more moderate, establishment Republicans.
Anyone who suggested that clearly did not know what the Wisconsin media have known for a long time—that Walker allows absolutely no space to the right of himself on any political issue.
There’s something else the media that have covered Walker in this state know very well even though they hardly ever report it explicitly. It doesn’t take professional journalists very long to realize Walker says a lot of things that simply aren’t true.
Somehow, throughout his last election, he managed to cover up one of the worst economic records in the nation by tossing out confusing and contradictory jobs numbers obscuring his sorry performance.
It didn’t help that a local newspaper’s fact-checkers, seeking to avoid alienating Republican readers, desperately combed through Walker’s misleading claims to find shreds of facts they could pronounce as partially true.
The national media are a lot quicker to write off the credibility of a presidential candidate like Walker who tries to deny taking three different positions on birthright citizenship within a week or that he ever publicly advocated building the Great Wall of Canada when everyone heard him do it.
As Walker fell out of the presidential race, his supporters still grasped at straws to pretend he wasn’t already the walking dead staggering through the political countryside.
They pointed out the millions of dollars he’d raised from billionaires and that somewhere in the fine print of all those catastrophic polls people still thought Walker might be a nice guy.
The ugly truth about whose interests are represented by the Republican Party today is that nearly all of its candidates have raised millions of dollars from billionaires except for a couple who are billionaires themselves. With months to go, Walker’s donations already were drying up. Even billionaires don’t like throwing money away.
And there’s always been something wrong with the Walker campaign claim that his everyman, guy-down-the-street image was somehow going to catapult him into the presidency.
Many of us know somebody down the street who seems like a nice guy. But nobody is seriously considering electing that guy president of the United States.
I told my editor it was a little frightening to see something I wrote immediately come true. I promise to continue to use my power for good.