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'Up is down and down is up' in Wisconsin

It was hard to imagine Gov. Scott Walker (R), of all people, pretending to be a candidate inspired by Occupy Wall Street.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses members of the media during a stop at the Madison GOP field office in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, July 23, 2014.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses members of the media during a stop at the Madison GOP field office in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, July 23, 2014.
A recent report in Madison's Capital Times noted that when it comes to Wisconsin's gubernatorial race, "it's starting to look like up is down and down is up." It's an observation rooted in fact.
Gov. Scott Walker (R), who makes no secret of his national ambitions, needs to prevail to keep his 2016 hopes alive, but polls show him struggling against businesswoman Mary Burke (D), who trails the incumbent by only a couple of points with three months remaining.
What's especially interesting at this point, however, is what Walker and his campaign team intend to do about it. Dylan Scott reports on the Republican's unexpected message:

Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, wants you to know his Democratic opponent Mary Burke is a one-percenter and an outsourcer whose family company doesn't pay its fair share of taxes. That's the brave new world in the Badger State, where the GOP incumbent is taking a page out of the Obama campaign's strategy against Mitt Romney to attack his 2014 gubernatorial rival. The state Republican Party has invited voters to get to know "outsourcing millionaire Mary Burke" who is "a definitive 'one-percenter'" on a new website purporting to introduce Wisconsinites to Walker's relatively unknown challenger.

Hmm. When Democrats use class-based criticisms of "one-percenters," the right tends to see this as evidence of divisive class warfare. When Scott Walker does the same thing, it's fine?
Look, I realize President Obama beat Mitt Romney in Wisconsin with relative ease two years ago, but I didn't expect Scott Walker, of all people, to pretend to be a candidate inspired by Occupy Wall Street.
Indeed, in some instances, Walker is bashing Burke for taking advantage of tax policies that Walker actually advocates -- a detail the Republican apparently hopes voters don't notice.
Alec MacGillis, who's done some terrific reporting on Wisconsin, made the case a few days ago that the governor is feeling "desperate," and sees attacking a Democrat from the left as a credible path to victory.

Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics suggests it's a sign of just how worried Walker is about losing this time around: "It smacks of desperation," writes Bevan. The fact is, some of those who voted for Walker in the 2012 recall election sparked by the anti-union legislation were doing so more out of protest against the recall process than out of love for Walker. Dig into the polls and it's not hard to detect some Walker fatigue -- even some voters feeling good about the direction Wisconsin is headed in say they will vote against him. But I'd suggest there's more to it than just the pressure Walker is feeling from Burke. Walker may be willing to risk accusations of apostasy for the reason I laid out in my recent cover story on him: because he enjoys such deep, abiding support from the airtight, monolithic Republican bubble in hyper-polarized Wisconsin, which may lead him to feel he has little to fear in taking a couple shots at Burke that are technically breaking with dogma. Already, Walker is getting back-up from the fiercely loyal conservative echo chamber in Wisconsin -- the Right Wisconsin website led by Milwaukee talk radio host Charlie Sykes took up Walker's side, arguing that it was hypocritical for Burke to have enjoyed the benefits of a tax status that many Democrats criticize, while completing overlooking the hypocrisy evident in Walker attacking a successful business for doing the things that successful businesses do: seeking out low-cost labor and money-saving tax structures. If a Republican can get away with class-baiting attacks on a wealthy businesswoman without fear of tut-tutting from his own local allies, what's to stop him?

If Walker's shameless ploy is effective, it stands to reason his 2016 Republican presidential primary challengers will use this against him, but at this point, the governor may not care -- he's having to abandon his principles to save his re-election campaign; he'll worry about abandoning this current facade after Election Day.