Marco Rubio’s no-not-me strategy

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After the hype: Why Walker wilted in the media spotlight.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Scott Walker and Rick Perry entered the 2016 presidential race with a combined 18 years of experience as governors. Since Scott Walker called for a Stop Trump effort in bowing out of the presidential race, it’s easy to conclude that he was vanquished by The Donald. Walker’s departure left his rivals seeking the Republican nomination for the November 2016 presidential election scrambling to appeal to his supporters in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire as well as elsewhere. While Walker and Perry were both flawed candidates, their swift demise is a warning to others who hope to win the White House on the strength of their political resumes.

Bobby Jindal said they plan on staying strong in Iowa. “I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner.” “I’ve been through this before when I ran last time. And it leaves the governors and senators still in the turbulent Republican race scrambling to adapt to a political environment that is rewarding those with the least governing experience. “The country is very unhappy now, and a winning candidate must be viewed as a change agent,” said Scott Reed, a longtime Republican strategist who advises the U.S. There is already one news report suggesting that Walker allies think he could still wind up the GOP nominee in 2016 via some sort of convention floor fight. His staff disagreed about how the 47-year-old Walker could regain the star status he held after electrifying conservatives in Iowa in January. ‘He started with great expectations and he didn’t meet ‘em,’ said Iowa Republican strategist Doug Gross. ‘You go down pretty fast when that happens.’ Walker’s departure reflected the difficulty faced by the 15-candidate field in attracting enough financial support from a limited pool of donors. This is nothing short of lunacy—the kind of idea that should have its promoters checking the levels of mind-altering substances in their morning coffee.

In a GOP campaign that has been chaotic and untraditional, Walker fell for old-fashioned reasons: He was losing support from voters and running out of money. I know their dream would be to have an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush go up against Trump,” Jindal said. “Every time they do that, they just anger conservative activists.” In a Washington Post article Tuesday, Walker’s campaign manager said they would have needed to spend $1 million a month to stay afloat in Iowa. But if Walker’s prospects for the becoming the Republican Party’s 2016 nominee are even dimmer today than they were at lunchtime on Monday, his overall political prospects have not lost their shine, at least not substantially. I’ve never seen a presidential candidate drop out and urge others to do so, but that was Walker’s plea—perhaps to give meaning to his move and lash out at the “personal attacks” by Trump.

In an era lacking visionary leadership, he envisioned a great wall along our northern border to keep out the tides of Canadians fleeing the tyranny of free health insurance. Walker came across as a waffler to the base and a zealot to the big donors, exactly the opposite of the “unite all factions” reputation with which he began the race. And we learned that years back, he mangled an intended “mazel tov” in a letter to a Jewish constituent, instead writing: “Thank you again and Molotov.” I miss him already.

It’s whether you use volunteers and you have people who are passionate about you and are willing to go out and work for you,” Santorum said. “I think people want to see us and hear from us, and hopefully that will have the impact of spending a million dollars.” Both Jindal and Santorum criticized Republicans in Congress and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying they’re unwilling to shake things up in Washington D.C. for fear of losing their seats. “I know why they’re not supporting me. Republicans voters’ apparent desire for a political novice is striking given that conservatives have long attributed some of what they see as President Barack Obama’s weaknesses to his inexperience when he took office. Because they know I will kick butt and take names,” Santorum said. “That means we’re going to have a conservative in there that actually tries to do something that will jeopardize them in their comfortable seats at home.” Jindal, who critiqued several Republicans on Tuesday evening, including Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham, said nothing has changed since McConnell took office. Following the release of controversial Planned Parenthood videos allegedly showing the sale of fetal parts, McConnell said this year’s Congress won’t be able to defund Planned Parenthood, which Jindal chastised. “They said give us the majority and we’ll take care of Obamacare and amnesty. But for Wisconsinites, and especially Wisconsin Republicans, Thompson remains a larger-than-life figure who occupied the governor’s mansion for 14 years and gained fame for reforming welfare in the state.

A huge portion of Walker’s early appeal came from the idea that he had won election three times in a blue state, and would therefore offer substantial crossover appeal while upholding conservative values. On a trip to London, he refused to talk about international issues; in a television interview, he said he favored “an aggressive strategy” in Syria but couldn’t offer any details. But as Alec McGillis documented at length in June 2014, Walker was in fact a spectacularly divisive figure in Wisconsin, polarizing politics on racial and ideological grounds to an unprecedented degree. One of his former aides, Liz Mair, suggested as much, firing off tweets on Monday about his errors, including “not educating himself fast enough” on national and world affairs.

As traditional candidates among the current GOP contenders try to break through, they’re employing a two-track strategy: distance themselves from Washington’s political elite while also building a campaign that can outlast voters’ discontent if the anti-establishment mood ultimately fades. His off-year gubernatorial victories in 2010 and 2014, fueled by right-wing talk radio, were the result of tremendous turnout in the white suburbs of increasingly black Milwaukee.

In the hours after Walker’s stunning withdrawal Monday, his experienced rivals intensified efforts to pitch themselves as Washington outsiders and political disruptors. “You cannot say that Scott Walker, Rick Perry or myself were insiders in Washington,” said Jeb Bush, the former two-term Florida governor who is also the son and brother of presidents. Despite what his critics say, there’s no reason to believe that Walker can’t keep winning elections in the Badger State, assuming he’s able to rebuild some bridges burnt in the course of this presidential foray.

The electorate that voted for Walker, in other words, was never the “blue” electorate that has gone Democratic in seven straight presidential elections. But whether that doomed him is impossible to say in a Republican primary season with mixed messages about the party’s appetite for ignorance, at once prodigious and inconsistent. Presumably this is something he will be giving substantial thought to over the coming days, weeks and months, but he has seemed to gravitate to issues and policies that allow him a claim to be delivering for the “hardworking taxpayers” of his state.

Donald Trump has prospered, and he’s utterly unapologetic about all of the matters that he hasn’t taken the trouble to bone up on and all of the experts whom he hasn’t bothered to consult. Kasich has pushed the GOP to do more to address poverty, mental illness and drug addiction, and he created an alternative to party leaders’ spending plans while serving in Congress. “You can either say you’re a change agent and have nothing to show for it but talk, or you can say you’re a change agent and have proof and results that have worked,” Kasich spokesman Scott Milburn said. But a recall election is not something you “win” so much as something you survive. (Walker’s was only the third gubernatorial recall in U.S. history.) Genuine success as a governor lies not in surviving a recall but instead in the vastly more common feat of not being so divisive and unpopular that more than a quarter of registered voters sign a recall petition in the first place. (It’s worth noting, too, that Walker won in part by raising a remarkable $30 million, much of it from out of state.) Indeed, the recall petition itself presented an opportunity for still greater political polarization in Wisconsin. When NBC’s Chuck Todd asked him where he gets his military advice, he said: “I watch the shows.” He presumably meant “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation,” though I don’t think we can rule out “Survivor” or “Game of Thrones.” Time and again, Trump pledges to amass the proper information just before he needs it — no point in doing so now, before he finds out if he’s hired — and he predicts that he’ll shame everyone then with his abracadabra erudition.

Unlike election results, the petition is a public document, and Walker supporters took it upon themselves to create a database, by hand, of every one of the more than 900,000 people who had signed it. However, more and more Republicans like our chances as we look at the flailing hot mess that is the former Secretary Clinton’s campaign and candidacy.

He was always going to be a factional candidate of the conservative wing of the party (as big donors discovered to their chagrin when they talked to him about issues such as gay marriage, where his vehemence reportedly surprised them). Conservative opinionators and influencers have been talking up the idea of Scott Walker, America’s most prominent union buster, becoming Secretary of Labor. Asked on CNBC about Rudy Giuliani’s remark that he didn’t think Barack Obama loved America, Walker said: “I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not.” I wrote this in July: “When I met Walker, he struck me as a meat-and-potatoes guy: Solid, disciplined, earnest, the son of a Baptist preacher was not at all flashy. That means he could wear well over a long campaign, but could also be overshadowed on a debate stage.” Things soon reached the point where Walker had trouble giving straight answers to media questions. Her fresh bounce in the polls reflects a debate performance last week that was all about policy fluency, and Marco Rubio, who flaunted similar chops that night, also seemed to benefit from his show of smarts.

Secretary of Agriculture, however, might be feasible, and let’s not forget that Walker comes from a state with a significant farm economy—so he does know ag. He was so eager to appear tough on illegal immigration that he allowed himself to muse about the possibility of building a fence along the Canadian border.

I remember well the night of the recall election, several dairy farmers who were Walker contributors gushing to me about him, and how focused he had been on agriculture (as well as reminding me that my grilled cheese sandwich was made possible by their cows.) Right now, this feels like a stretch, but bear with me. Earlier this year, as campaigns raised millions of dollars under new rules allowing unlimited donations, it looked as if no candidate would ever need to drop out because of dwindling funds, laying the groundwork for a long, overcrowded race, and increasing the chances that an outsider like Trump would win.

It leaves John Kasich as the only Midwestern governor; Chris Christie as the tough-talking governor; Jeb Bush as the ex-governor running on his record, albeit with far more money; Marco Rubio as the fresh young face, and Ted Cruz as the anti-establishment senator. Well beyond the Republican primary and the Republican Party, we’ve exhibited a curious habit in this country of forgiving intellectual blind spots and refashioning a contempt for schooling as an embrace of common sense. It leaves Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, the non-politician brigade, at the head of the field, with Carson spending yesterday trying to explain away his comments about not advocating a Muslim for president. Advisers to several GOP campaigns say they expect voters to ultimately gravitate toward experienced candidates as next year’s early primaries and caucuses draw near.

Moreover, some of them have real worries about whether certain individuals involved in his presidential campaign might be brought by him into any future job, and would probably want for the presidential team to retain100 percent control over staffing. Don’t sweat the brain work, because there’s “Emotional Intelligence.” Don’t think, “Blink.” Obtuseness in a leader can be redeemed by “The Wisdom of Crowds.” But I’m weary and wary of politicians whose ambitions precede and eclipse any serious, necessary preparation for the office they seek. The Wisconsin governor’s withdrawal should also serve as a reminder that, at this still-early stage in the campaign, most voters are only window-shopping. First, he is a tried and tested attack dog—one who would do a great job as a lightning rod at the bottom of the ticket (and that does have its merits).

Fourth, he has shown that he knows how to win in Wisconsin, a state Republicans would sure like to put in our column again—though how replicable that be in a presidential year is, at this point, hard to guess. His most recent outing did cause some eye rolls, raised eyebrows, and the occasional pounding of foreheads against tables, but that’s actually an anomaly for him. But the GOP has a history of nominating people who have run before (probably because they, like Walker, grievously underestimated how tough a presidential run would be the first time they undertook it, and prepared better the second time around). But he’s still a good ways off the faux-conservative, gaffe-a-minute, RomneyCare authoring, robotic, weird-joke-making, awkward flip-flopper with daddy issues that was Mitt Romney after his ’08 loss.

He doesn’t say weird things like “I was a severely conservative Republican governor,” which sounds like utter nonsense delivered by someone new to the English language. He didn’t write the blueprint for a law that his own party wants to repeal, and which roughly half the country has a significant problem with at any given time. But in order to seize on them, he needs to clear his head, clear his adviser pool, take a break, and get back to spending real time with his family and friends.

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