Walker’s campaign manager unloads

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Act Two: Scott Walker’s exit marks new phase in GOP race.

Unlike Rick Perry’s (first) presidential flameout, Scott Walker’s on Monday came not with an “oops” but with a whimper. 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.

Scott Walker and elevated a former bottom tier contender in Carly Fiorina, signaling a new act in the drama that is the Republican presidential primary. Scott Walker of Wisconsin was among the most successful fund-raisers in his party, with a clutch of billionaires in his corner and tens of millions of dollars behind his presidential ambitions. 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. 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. While a super PAC supporting him, Unintimidated, was relatively flush with cash — on track to raise as much as $40 million through the end of the year, according to people involved with the group — Mr.

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. Walker’s campaign committee was running dry, contemplating layoffs and unable to find enough money to mount a last stand in Iowa, a state that once favored him. 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.

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. Ben Carson is still a hit with the right, Jeb Bush is still the money leader stuck in neutral with voters, Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are preparing for their close up, Ohio Gov. 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.

John Kasich is showing promise with moderates in New Hampshire, and the rest of the candidates are dealing with existential crises of varying degrees. They are not entitled to the preferential rates on advertising that federal law grants candidates, forcing them to pay far more money than candidates must for the same television and radio time.

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. For months, Donald Trump has had a ready reply to anyone who questions his positions, his knowledge, his language, his political savvy or anything else regarding his presidential campaign: I’m leading in the polls and you’re not. 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. 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. Walker’s decline and fall hint at the systemic dangers of the super-PAC-driven financial model on which virtually the entire Republican field has staked its chances.

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. 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. 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.

Trump responded predictably by complaining about the poll, but a candidate who whines about the polls looks a lot less intimidating than one who boasts about them. The electorate that voted for Walker, in other words, was never the “blue” electorate that has gone Democratic in seven straight presidential elections. 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.

Walker’s full-time return to the state but felt uncertain about his precise role in Wisconsin now. “A lot of people wonder if Scott Walker is too restless to come back,” said Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican majority leader of the State Senate. “He’s very dynamic. 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. All told, as of June 30, the most recent reporting deadline, Republican super PACs and other groups involved in the primary had raised about $256 million, compared with just $78.4 million for the candidates.

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. Indeed, many of the Republicans crisscrossed the country this spring and summer to win over billionaires like the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the investor Paul Singer, and the conservative industrialist brothers David H. and Charles G. I think there is a part of me and members of my caucus who are just not sure he’s going to stay around.” On Tuesday, some residents were wondering the same thing.

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.

While his willingness to go further on immigration than his rivals gave him his initial boost, his broader message has been a general pledge that as president he will win and keep winning just as he wins at all things. 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. That also meant late starts in raising money directly for their own campaigns — and neglecting the hundreds of lower-tier wealthy donors and “bundlers” who help candidates raise so-called hard money for their campaigns, $2,700 at a time.

Trump’s been anything but boring so far, but as the conversation turns to policy details more, as it did in his listless second debate, he may also have a tough time keeping the same manic energy around his campaign high all the way until the first votes in February. 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). Much of the Republican donor establishment is waiting on the sidelines for a clearer picture of the race to emerge, hampering candidates’ efforts to bring in hard money, currency that a campaign needs to survive. “You know how hard it is to raise this money at $2,700 apiece?” said Anthony M.

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. Conservative opinionators and influencers have been talking up the idea of Scott Walker, America’s most prominent union buster, becoming Secretary of Labor. For normal candidates, there’s usually a cycle in which they gain popularity with voters, attract more attention from the press and attacks from rivals, and then have to prove whether they can withstand the added scrutiny.

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. Walker “looks forward to continuing to work hard for the people of Wisconsin for the remainder of his term.” She said he was unavailable for an interview. Marco Rubio jumped at the opportunity to distance himself from Congress during last week’s Republican debate. “In my years in the Senate, I’ve figured out very quickly that the political establishment in Washington, D.C., in both political parties is completely out of touch with the lives of our people,” Rubio said. “That’s why I’m missing votes. You have to be able to go up-range into the big donor community and downrange into the smaller donor community.” While the campaigns will not be required to report their latest fund-raising totals until mid-October, signs of belt tightening abound.

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. 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.

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. 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. Carson’s rise with conservatives largely took place under the radar at first, but now that he’s in second place in most polls he’ll face a lot more questions – including from conservatives – teasing out his more unorthodox views and testing his inexperience. 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.

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. 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. Now she is also going through the ringer, including a contentious debate with fact checkers over her debate answer on abortion, which cited hidden camera footage of Planned Parenthood that does not seem to exist. 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. 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).

As CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina fired tens of thousands of workers, clashed with her colleagues, and was panned in the business press as a failure before being forced out with a $21 million golden parachute. These attacks wrecked her Senate campaign in California and are far more immediate than the more indirect tales about Bain that hobbled Mitt Romney in 2012.

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. Fiorina is trying to reframe her tenure at HP early as another outsider battle against entrenched interests – a campaign memo to reporters on Tuesday likened her “tough decisions” to lay off workers to “tough decisions in Washington” she would make to cut spending. Walker, a little-known county executive when he was elected governor in 2010, made a national name for himself by pursuing a firmly defined conservative agenda almost immediately. 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.

Trump, who is paying his own way — are now relying to a significant extent on super PACs to communicate with voters on their behalf in the five weeks remaining until the next Republican debate. Walker pressed to limit collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions, cut taxes, permit concealed weapons, expand school vouchers and add limits on early voting.

Yet Jerry Bader, the conservative host of a radio talk show in the Green Bay area, said that the governor’s presidential run had left conservatives less certain of Mr. His campaign manager Terry Sullivan claimed on Monday that this is by design – let the other candidates rise and fall under scrutiny (see above), then seize the moment to pitch Rubio as the most consistent and electable candidate. 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). At some point, Republican voters are bound to notice that progressive pundits are more scared of Rubio – especially matched up against Hillary Clinton – than anyone else in the race.

Bush has had his stumbles, but he’s also avoided Walker’s total collapse and still has a $100 million plus super PAC that’s only just starting to air ads. John Kasich of Ohio, have invested heavily in advertising to promote their candidates, rather than negative ads attacking their rivals — the stock in trade of most super PACs during the 2012 cycle. 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. A multimillion-dollar network of super PACs allied with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, for example, is focused on forming partnerships with anti-abortion groups to help Mr.

Cruz with evangelical voters. “I think there’s a lot of experimentation as to what super PACs can effectively do in different campaigns,” said Dan Backer, a conservative election lawyer. Ted Cruz, who has proved a strong fundraiser, will get a clear shot to try and overthrow the system, however, especially if Trump – whose supporters Cruz has courted for months – collapses.

Bush is spending $37 million to introduce him as a proven conservative executive, on the theory that primary voters know relatively little about his record despite his family name. 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. Walker spent periods out of state trying to build national support for his candidacy, Republican legislators seemed to take on a broader role, lawmakers said.

They pushed to repeal rules that set prices for public construction projects and to ban unions from requiring workers at private sector companies to pay the equivalent of dues. “The Republicans were beginning to show a little independence from him; they didn’t accept everything in his budget this time,” said Fred Risser, a Senate Democrat who has served in the Legislature for nearly 60 years. Walker withdrew from an effort to run for governor here, deferring to another Republican, Representative Mark Green, who went on to lose to the incumbent Democrat.

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