The only shocking thing about Scott Walker dropping out tonight from the Republican 2016 Race To Trump is the timing. Could have sworn the guy would at least try to last until Iowa made it official he wasn't winning.
We're talking about a candidate who started off with a lot of press coverage and cheerleading by the media elites and news channels. Someone working with a double-digit percentage in the polls near equal to the Establishment front-runner in Jeb! Bush in around March to July. Someone with an inside line to the deepest pockets in the SuperPAC environments with the Koch Brothers, who had a solid chance to ride free money all the way to Cleveland (even if he was losing).
We're talking about a candidate now who polls somewhere UNDER one percent and was reportedly having problems getting even the Koch Brothers to return his calls.
Part of me is wondering, by the way, if all this Citizens United super-funding isn't working the way people feared it would. Or are we looking at the wrong numbers...?
Anyway. Why did Walker fall?
Part of it was that Walker didn't deserve to be ranked so high in the first place. Kind of like an overrated college football team like the 2007 Michigan Wolverines getting their ass stomped by Appalachian State.
Walker was loved by the punditry. The likes of Bill Kristol sang his praises. Larry Sabato's blog ranked him at the top of their candidates for awhile. A lot of it had to do with how Walker fit their need for an "outsider" candidate - which Governors can be - who was still experienced as an elected official - again, which Governors can be. Walker won a contested governorship in a Purple state (one that voted twice for Obama and can vote Democratic as well as Republican on how the state's fortunes are going), survived a recall effort that boosted his prestige among the Republican insiders, and fit the desired profile of a Midwestern "straight-talker" that the East Coast elites want in a
However, as the pundits fell in love with Walker's resume, none of them really did the research on the guy to determine if he could win over, you know, the actual voters outside of his own comfort zone.
We're learning now about a weakness regarding Governor candidates in this particular Presidential election cycle. Most of them benefited from winning Governorships in states and situations that were too easy for Republicans to win.
Let Jeb!? Bush be an example. He may have won office in Florida in 1998 and 2002, but this was when the state was solidly conservative and likely to vote Republican in local elections no matter who or what was on the ballot. When he ran a genuine contest against a popular and effective Democrat like Lawton Chiles in 1994, Jeb lost. Winning in 1998 on the second try was such a gimme that he'd have had to actively campaign against himself to lose: not because he was popular but because Democrats just don't show up for the damn non-Presidential cycles. We're talking about a state of Florida that freaking voted a goddamn MEDICARE FRAUD into the governor's seat. Twice. /headdesk
Okay, I digress.
Thing is, these "popular" governor figures that the Republican-leading media elites think are winners are only doing so in places where it'd have to take real effort to actually lose. Governors in solid Red states - especially in the Deep South - benefit from skewed turnouts and enough voter support for the party line rather than any actual love by said voters. Governors from Solid Red States like Louisiana (Hi, Bobby!) and Texas (Hi, Rick!), or Traditional Republican States like Ohio (Hi, Kasich!), or Purple-Toss Up States that they're catching on a rebound from a bad Democratic relationship like Joisey (Hi, Christie!) are finding to their horror that a laid-back campaign style in "safe" states that focus on limited issues does not translate to a more intense campaign style nationwide that requires more extreme pandering to the party base than they even expect at a state level.
And I'm not even mentioning the likes of Gilmore and Pataki who aren't even earning a percent of a percent worth caring about.
These Governors exist in a comfort zone - a bubble of their own at the state capitals - where they get their egos boosted into thinking "oh yeah, I'm good enough to win Florida/Wisconsin/Ohio/Texas/Louisina" that it makes them a winner nationwide. Getting ego-stroked on the Fox Not-News channel by a punditry eager to find another "star" like Reagan to attach their fortunes to doesn't help.
When you look at how the Governor candidates for the Democrats are doing - Martin O'Malley is polling as bad as Walker was (which is close to zero), and about nobody is talking about Jim Webb or Lincoln Chafee - the same seems to go for them.
This isn't because it's a weak cycle for Governors. That type of candidate tends to fare well running for President (I count off the top of my head about sixteen Presidents with governor experience).
This is because the candidates that are Governors from our modern political system are weak. Benefiting from a polarized partisan environment that doesn't teach them such things as genuine office management, attention to details on the issues, and ability to connect with voters. Those things used to matter at the state level to get voter turnout and good Governors. Today...
Well today, we're seeing the quality of these Governors when they get outside their comfort zone. It ain't pretty.
As another thought, the question with Walker departing is "wow, who benefits?" Considering how few voters Walker is giving up, that part is moot. What is up for grabs is the media attention from the GOP-friendly pundits: now that their horse is out of the race, which one are they betting on now?
What's really at stake - which remaining Establishment candidate in Jeb?, Rubio, Christie or Kasich can beat the Trump Anti-Establishment momentum - is still so. Because the polling for Jeb* and Rubio and Christie and Kasich combined cannot put a dent in Trump right now.
Oh, and for Jeb no longer having an ! emphasizing his enthusiasm, until he can actually stump on the road with that level of oomph, he doesn't deserve an exclamation mark for his musical aspirations.
In the meantime, enjoy the schadenfreude.
P.S. It's incredible how the United Kingdom could come up with a single news cycle that could temporarily knock Trump off the news headlines for even a day. But I guess something like having your Prime Minister get accused of oh I can't even write it here, it's too NSFW even for me would do it. THAT, my friends, is how you serve the schadenfreude...
UPDATE: Digby's take on Walker's collapse in Salon this morning conveys exactly the problem the Republicans have with their punditry. This constant desire to resurrect a new Reagan, a Rust Belt Midwestern figure whose genetic code hails from the blue-collar middle class of the mythic 1950s. Even though that legend about Reagan - an Illinois-born actor whose ideology bore more relation to the West Coast conservatism - wasn't real to begin with. As Digby notes:
...But while it’s true that the modern electoral map is very daunting for the GOP, they seem peculiarly fixated on this (Great Lakes/Midwest) region. Walker took the early lead in the Midwestern savior race, but for months people were also talking up Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Indiana Governor Mike Pence as similarly excellent choices to lead the GOP out of the wilderness...
The sad fact is that Walker has been the most overrated politician in the country based largely upon the Republicans’ quixotic desire to find a leader who can put a respectable face on its increasingly disreputable base — and the media’s odd willingness to not believe what their eyes were telling them: that Walker was a terrible candidate. Like Pawlenty and Thompson before him, he may have looked good on a Power Point presentation, but in reality he showed few signs of life on the debate stage or on the stump...
And as Digby notes, the Republican elites still have a chance to indulge in this fetish: Kasich out of Ohio is still on the dead pool of non-Trump candidates.
More UPDATE: Gawker's All The Dumb Pundits Who Thought Scott Walker Could Be President
Update to the UPDATE: Going back and re-reading my own analysis of what Walker would be like as a nominee, even I bought into the myth of him being a potentially effective candidate. I considered he'd be vulnerable on scandal charges, but I honestly thought Walker could appeal to the base as he had been polling near-even or above Jeb? before Trump entered the equation as a serious force.