John W. Eyster: Advice for Walker as he slides in the polls

 

Charlie Neibergall

The headline on Dan Balz and Jenna Johnson's politics article published in yesterday's Washington Post grabbed my attention: “What happened to Scott Walker?” I'm betting it will grab your attention too.

These two outstanding journalists have written a thorough review of Scott Walker's presidential campaign analyzing why he has lost support in the polls.  Do you agree that it is the fact that Scott Walker has tried to move himself to the right of Donald Trump?

Completing this article is Craig Gilbert's “Wisconsin Voter” column published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday, “Center sours on Scott Walker; support drops among independents, outstate voters.”

I urge you to read Gilbert's column.  Whenever I see his “Wisconsin Voter” column, I make it high priority to read as soon as possible.  He is a long-term journalist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  He always provides solid data to support his analyses.  I bank on Craig Gilbert.  His credibility is GOLD STANDARD.

Balz and Johnson assert, “Walker's backers see a campaign discombobulated by Trump's booming popularity and by his provocative language on immigration, China and other issues. They see in Walker a candidate who — in contrast to the discipline he showed in state races — continues to commit unforced errors, either out of lack of preparation or in an attempt to grab for part of the flamboyant businessman's following.”  What is your evaluation?

The evaluation continues, “Now, Walker is the favorite of just 8 percent among likely GOP caucusgoers, running third behind Trump (23 percent) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (at 18 percent). The poll also showed, however, that Walker remains well liked by Iowa Republicans, with a favorability rating of 71 percent, second only to Carson.”

I was especially interested in the citation of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination four years ago, said in an interview that he sees both opportunities and challenges for Walker as he tries to regroup, “He's a hybrid candidate who can appeal to both base conservatives and not scare the establishment,” Pawlenty said. “So he's in a good spot in terms of the potential territory he appeals to. But he's still got to go out and rise to the occasion and close the sale.”

But Balz and Johnson accuse Walker, “Instead of rising to the occasion, however, Walker has continued to raise doubts.”

I think there is valuable advice for Walker in the assertion of a former Republican officeholder with whom Balz and Johnson talked.  They report he said Walker needs to project the political persona that first made him attractive to conservatives, rather than seemingly lurch further to the right on issues that never have been at his core.

“'The Walker of the Iowa caucuses is not the Walker that people were used to seeing in Wisconsin,' said the Republican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to offer a candid view of Walker's candidacy.”

I take seriously Balz and Johnson's observation, “As Trump has continued to gain momentum, Walker's campaign in the past two weeks launched a concerted effort to win over Trump's supporters, many of them frustrated with traditional politicians. Even though Walker is a career officeholder who has spent most of his adult life campaigning, he has pitched himself as a Washington outsider who can use his political experience to get more accomplished from the White House.

“As part of this reboot, Walker has adopted a more aggressive posture on the campaign trail, shouting back at protesters at the Iowa State Fair and sharpening his criticism of China, the media and members of his own party — even the Republicans back in Wisconsin who were instrumental to his rapid ascension.

“Walker has also embraced several of Trump's marquee stances, such as the businessman's controversial proposal for reforming the immigration system, saying it's similar to his own border plan. But Trump's positions don't always mesh with Walker's style and experiences.

“Walker struggled for more than a week to say whether he believes birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, should be repealed. As the financial markets tumbled last week in reaction to weaknesses in the Chinese economy, Walker called on President Obama to show “some backbone” and cancel the upcoming state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom Walker met during a widely publicized 2013 trade mission.”

I am betting you were as surprised as I was when Walker, discussing immigration on Sunday, articulated support for constructing a wall on the U.S. border with Canada — the longest in the world at 5,525 miles — saying it is “a legitimate issue for us to look at.”  Really?!

I agree with Walker loyalists who are saying the first priority should be to help the governor rebalance himself as a candidate. Balz and Johnson point out that Walker loyalists say making the change “will require some tough love from his campaign advisers and more discipline in developing answers to questions about issues that are not central to Walker's core message.”

Providing valuable perspective on the Walker campaign, Balz and Johnson report, “The campaign is led by Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee political director who grew up in the Midwest and has worked in Wisconsin before. Wiley is frequently on the trail with Walker, and several top supporters say he acts too much like a buddy and not enough like a chief operating officer.

“'Every candidate needs somebody that can checkmate them in private, like a Karl Rove and 'W,'  one top donor said, referring to George W. Bush's longtime political adviser. 'Is there some concern about senior experience around the governor, actual presidential experience? Yes, no question.'”

They report that “Despite the falling poll numbers, Walker supporters are optimistic his campaign can still rebound — particularly if he performs well at the Sept. 16 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.”

“'All campaigns go through cycles, and nobody has ridden all the way to victory,' said Gregory W. Slayton, a major Walker fundraiser who lives in New Hampshire. 'There isn't a candidate out there who hasn't had really serious issues or challenges.'”

Those following the 2016 Presidential Campaign seriously now are focused on that upcoming GOP candidate debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, September 16.  Broadcast time has not been announced as far as I could find online. Do you know the time?

What is YOUR assessment of the Walker campaign as we start September?  I'll be reading YOUR comments with real interest.

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