I like Scott Walker quite a lot. He’s one of my favorite governors to come down the pipe in a long time. He has taken the fight to the liberals in his state from day one in office, and won far more than he’s lost. Really, Walker should be walking away with both my personal vote and the nomination by this point, based on his record.
But something vague and barely definable has happened to Walker on the national campaign trail that continues to make voters like me hesitant. Walker’s record is still the same, and it’s still the same guy who’s up on stage giving those speeches. When he talks about what he’s accomplished and the vision he has for the country, it’s hard not to get on board. However, for some reason that no one can really seem to pinpoint, Walker just doesn’t seem… comfortable in his skin as a national candidate. On certain issues of national importance, Walker just seems unable or unwilling to harness the directness and clearness of purpose that defined his statewide campaign.
On perhaps no issue has that been more evident than immigration. One gets the very clear sense that this is not an issue that is of personal importance to Walker and so, like other similar issues, he is essentially allowing other people to drive this particular bus so that he can talk about the stuff that does matter to him. While this approach might work on a statewide level, on a national level it leads to embarrassment and disaster – particularly with respect to an issue that draws such harsh scrutiny from dedicated activists like immigration.
Most recently, Walker tried to essentially punt on the issue by suggesting that, you know, his plan was a lot like Trump’s, and people seem to like Trump’s, so they should like his. However, when pressed on what that might mean, Walker gave answers that (charitably interpreted) indicated a severe lack of depth of understanding on the issue:
I pressed Scott Walker on what he means when he says he doesn’t support amnesty for illegal immigrants already here. pic.twitter.com/5PRclpiCk0
— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) August 17, 2015
All this after an abrupt about-face earlier this year on a path to citizenship when he came under fire from anti-immigration activists for his original stance on the issue. At the end of the day, Walker’s flailing on the issue has left exactly no one satisfied and has frankly caused people on both sides of the issue to have some well-deserved anger at both his stances substantively and the way he has responded to questioning on the matter.
It may well be that Walker is the rare bird in elected politics who is much better at successfully standing up to Democrats than he is to his own voters (when necessary). While I would definitely rather have a candidate possessed of this weakness than one who was better at standing up to his own voters than he is to Democrats, it has definitely hurt Walker’s image during this campaign as a straight shooter possessed of an iron will and clear policy directives. That’s especially damaging for Walker because that image was the primary selling point of his campaign from the word “go.”
What the national campaign of Scott Walker needs worst is for the Wisconsin version of Scott Walker to re-assert itself, before it’s too late.