Last week, Politico described Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) as “the biggest loser of the summer.” The piece quoted an unnamed Iowa Republican saying the GOP presidential candidate “can’t seem to find his way on any given issue with a handheld GPS.”
The Iowan added, “He’s been on all three sides of every two-sided issue. For the last two months hasn’t made a single policy pronouncement that he or his staff hasn’t had to clarify or clear up within two hours…. ‘Unintimidated’ has given way to ‘uninformed’ and ‘unprepared.’”
Another Iowa Republican said, “Not since, well, Tim Pawlenty has a candidate so hyped or seemingly invincible had their bubble burst in this way.”
The Washington Post reports today that Walker maintains an aggressive campaign schedule, but he’s investing quite a bit of time “convincing voters he is still viable” as a national candidate.
Staying constant, however, has been one of his biggest challenges. On key issues of the day – from calls to end birthright citizenship to the jailing of a Kentucky county official who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses – Walker has struggled more than other candidates to clearly explain where he stands.On several issues, he has attempted to not take a side – including when asked this week what he would do to directly address the crisis facing Europe as hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries search for a safe place to live.
Talking to reporters yesterday in New Hampshire, the Republican governor said, “I’m not president today, and I can’t be president today. Everybody wants to talk about hypotheticals; there is no such thing as a hypothetical.”
Especially this year, campaign observers have grown accustomed to quite a bit of gibberish from White House hopefuls, but Walker insisting that there’s “no such thing as a hypothetical” might be one of the most bizarre claims of the campaign.
It rivals Walker’s claim last week that he’s not a “career politician,” despite the fact that the Wisconsin Republican has spent literally most of his life – including 22 of the last 22 years – seeking and holding elected office.
I can appreciate the fact that candidates are reluctant to delve too deeply in response to hypothetical questions, but for every presidential candidate, hypotheticals are usually the foundation of the campaign itself: “If I’m elected, I’ll do ________.”
Pretending hypotheticals simply don’t exist, because Walker finds them inconvenient, is emblematic of a candidate who no longer knows which way is up.
To be sure, there’s still plenty of time for the far-right governor to get back on track. In the meantime, however, there’s simply no denying the evidence that Walker is headed in the wrong direction – nationally, the Wisconsin Republican was leading in some polls not too long ago, though averages now show him running seventh in the crowded GOP field. One recent national survey showed Walker in eighth place with just 3% support.
In Iowa, thought to be Walker’s strongest state among early nominating contests, the governor’s lead has evaporated, and the last several statewide polls show him slipping into single digits.
Whatever Walker’s selling, voters aren’t buying. He has a demonstrated ability to defeat Democratic foes, but can the governor prevail over Republican rivals?