At the beginning of this process, you were a front runner by virtue of the fact that you were a conservative Governor who won three elections in a blue state. You took on the unions and you won despite 100,000 protesters in the streets of Madison. We know your story. But, the time for introduction to the electorate is over. As this campaign progresses, you will be attacked from the Left…and the Right. Your drop in the polls- which mean little this far out from February 2016- is attributable to Trump sucking up the spotlight. There is no need to resort to bombastic statements or policy positions. It is OK to disagree with Trump on issues, but do it respectfully. For example, instead of putting off the issue of birthright citizenship, just note that most constitutional scholars acknowledge it as fact and leave it at that. Don’t get caught up in a distracting issue.
The Left will attack you based on your past or comments taken out of context. It is part of the game and how you respond and react will go a long way towards gaining converts. If asked about Obama’s Christianity, say you take him at his word, but his vision of Christianity does not match your’s which recognizes the sanctity of human life, even in the womb. Use the fact you never finished college to your advantage. There are more non-college graduates in this country and many who left college early for a variety of reasons who can readily identify with you. It is OK to say that ultrasounds are “cool” because…well, they are cool. Regarding fetal pain capable legislation, Democrats are allegedly big on science. Highlight the science which shows that a developing fetus can experience pain at a certain stage in development. Ask the Democrats why they are more concerned about the pain allegedly experienced by a convicted rapist/murderer sentenced to death and not a developing human life. When they attack your reforms in Wisconsin, for example over student debt, cite the fact you froze college tuition. When they attack your educational reforms, turn the tables. Ask them why Democrats are for choice when it comes to abortion, but not when a low income minority family is denied choice on where to send their children to school.
Don’t nuance your statements based on the audience. For example, being against ethanol subsidies, then being for them (maybe…partially…) before Iowa voters may get you a bump in the polls in Iowa, but it will cost you long-term. Cruz was the only one at the Iowa Summit to firmly oppose them to the faces of Iowa farmers and it did not seem to hurt him with Iowa voters. The American electorate and especially conservatives- the ones that will be casting ballots in February and March- are tired of the nuanced, squishy, flip-flopping candidate. It is why Trump is doing so well right now.
On Common Core, note that it was adopted before you were elected. Note that states considerably more conservative than Wisconsin adopted it and continue to implement it. Note that Wisconsin standards were in need of revamping and that Common Core was a bridge towards those ends, but the bridge has now been burnt. Note that even in bad things, there are sometimes nuggets of good, and Common Core is no different. Reiterate that Common Core transformed from a suggested set of standards into a federal mandate and that states were basically blackmailed into adopting, something a Walker administration would never do. And stress that the testing regimen is less under a Walker plan. You could win the vote of actual teachers by declaring that the days of “teaching to the test” are over.
Some conservative voices are saying that your administration in Madison did not go far enough. This is particularly true with the social issues. On abortion, however, didn’t you defund Planned Parenthood years before the current uproar? Didn’t the state of Wisconsin under your leadership fight for a ban on same sex marriage up to the Seventh Court of Appeals in a losing cause? Note that the Supreme Court has spoken, you disagree with it, but it is what it is and absent a Constitutional amendment, the best one can now do is recognize and protect the religious liberty rights of people. Trust me- there are more religious voters than there are gays or gay advocate voters in the primaries. Use Mike Pence of Indiana as an example of what not to be; do not be squishy on this subject.
They will also note that with your union reforms, you were selective and that not all public worker unions were affected. They will say you did not go as far as you could or should have with gun laws. Remind the voters that you are pro-gun rights, that you govern a blue state and that Rome was not built in a day. Neither is the political culture in Madison transformed in three or four years.
The biggest conservative criticism against you is state financing for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks to maintain that NBA franchise in that city. It smacks of crony capitalism and use of taxpayer money to build an arena for owners who are billionaires. You should highlight the pride that Milwaukee takes in their NBA team and that their moving elsewhere would have been an economic blow to a city that cannot afford it. Show the voters that the investment will pay for itself in so many years. Can one imagine the uproar, not just in Wisconsin but nationwide, if the Packers threatened to leave Green Bay for a newer stadium elsewhere? The Salt Lake City Packers just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Then there are the criticisms over your hiring of certain people, particularly Morris Dayspring. Although his strategy against Chris McDaniel in Mississippi and Milton Wolf in Kansas were unwarranted and over the top, let’s look at the bottom line. Did Dayspring produce a winner or a loser? Against Hillary Clinton and her machine, wouldn’t any sane Republican voter want a winner on their side…someone who will do whatever it takes to win? Isn’t the objective to defeat Clinton? What good is running a “clean” campaign without tearing down your opponent if it results in a loss? I am all for principle and conservative purism (whatever that is), but what good is it if you lose? Otherwise, you can make great speeches on the floor of the Senate, or slink back to your day job. As for me and a lot of others, I am tired of being on the losing side.
There will be other criticisms from the Left and Right along the way. With the North Carolina primary changes, some see political chicanery. I see political acumen, but with a risk. In the overall scheme of things, the machinations of the Republican Party’s North Carolina primary involve a certain segment of the North Carolina electorate and even smaller segment of the national electorate. Look at it this way: those who see political chicanery were probably not going to vote for you any way. You are not going satisfy 100% of the voters 100% of the time in 100% of the states. If you did, you’d be running for King of the Galaxy.
Whether it is a social issue, a past stance or policy, or political moves on a state-by-state basis, if you truly desire the GOP nomination, do not be afraid to be bold. Your health care plan has received applause from some unlikely sources and is generally seen as the most politically feasible plan offered thus far. Forget what Bobby Jindal says; he’s going nowhere. But, be bold and be consistent even it upsets some people. Two years from now, books and articles will be written about the Trump phenomena in 2015-16. You should aspire to a book being written as to how Scott Walker became president.