Mitt Romney’s decision to forgo a third try at the White House has settled the question of whether the 2016 GOP presidential field has a front-runner — bestowing a coveted status on former Florida governor Jeb Bush that also raises new challenges and perils.... and then this happened:
Walker Surging in Iowa Poll as Bush StrugglesMitt Romney was included in this poll (he was at 13%, far ahead of Jeb) -- but Jeb doesn't get the bulk of Romney's votes. Far from it:
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is surging, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is an also-ran...
The Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, taken Monday through Thursday, shows Walker leading a wide-open Republican race with 15 percent, up from just 4 percent in the same poll in October. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was at 14 percent and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, stood at 10 percent.
Bush trailed with 8 percent and increasingly is viewed negatively by likely Republican caucus-goers.... At 9 percent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson pulls more support than ... Bush...
When [Romney's] supporters are re-allocated to their second choice, Walker's backing grows to 16 percent, followed by 15 percent for Paul, 13 percent for Huckabee, and 10 percent for Carson. Removing Romney from his third-place spot had no effect on the ranking order of the other top potential candidates and offered the biggest boost to Huckabee. Bush's overall number inched up just one point, to 9 percent.Tumulty and Gold shoehorned these poll results into paragraph 16 of their story. Maybe that seems reasonable if you assume that Iowa is anomalous, that Walker is just getting a momentary boost from an unusually well-received Iowa speech, and that Bush has the fat cats sewn up. But I think what Byron York wrote about Walker a week ago in his much-read piece "12 Keys to the Presidential Race Right Now" is essentially correct:
As a lot of Republicans see it, the Wisconsin governor is the most accomplished candidate in the race. Who can match his achievement staring down the mighty public-sector unions and then winning a recall and re-election in a blue state? For Republicans, those are simply huge victories.No, the word "accomplishment," when applied to an elected official does not mean to Republicans what it means to you or me. "Accomplishment," to the right, doesn't mean improving the lot of citizens -- it means smiting liberals and crushing unions. But, of course, this is precisely what Republican voters want from government.
I also like this quote about Walker from the Bloomberg poll story:
“I like what he did to Wisconsin, and I think he'd be great at getting rid of a bunch of stuff that the government is doing to us,” said Kerri Vaughn, a carpenter from western Iowa who has followed Walker's career mostly on Fox News.Right -- Vaughn doesn't like what Walker did in Wisconsin, or for Wisconsin -- Vaughn likes what Walker did to Wisconsin. Politicians are, or ought to be, like the worst kinds of cops or CEOs -- they should go into a situation and do stuff to people, smacking them around for their own good. Note what in particular Vaughn would like our next president to "accomplish": "getting rid of a bunch of stuff that the government is doing to us."
And please read what Peter Beinart wrote about Walker last week. Beinart makes the point that Walker isn't trying to make centrist moves that will appeal to mainstream journalists and pundits, and that's very appealing to RINO-averse Republican voters:
... the most striking thing about Scott Walker’s speech at the Freedom Summit, and his emerging campaign message more generally, is how retro it is. Walker concedes nothing to the conventional wisdom about what the GOP must do to compete in a more culturally tolerant, ethnically diverse and economically insecure America. And the GOP faithful love it....And yet he's won three elections in an Obama state. He apparently doesn't scare Democrats, apart from the small subset of politically engaged, Maddow-watching progressives.
His speech in Iowa not only slammed President Obama’s executive action legalizing some undocumented immigrants. It didn’t even include the love-letter to legal immigrants that Republicans typically use to shield themselves from charges of being anti-Hispanic. In addition, Walker said nothing about reaching out to African Americans and boasted about Wisconsin’s voter-ID law....
In recent months, many of Walker’s likely GOP opponents have moved beyond a purely anti-government message to suggest conservative-sounding ways government can give Americans an economic boost. Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio have proposed new anti-poverty tax credits. Mitt Romney has backed a higher minimum wage.
Walker’s having none of it. His message is simple and old-fashioned: “Take control from the federal government and big-government special interests and give it back to hard-working taxpayers.”
If you're a Republican voter or fat-cat donor, what's not to like?
I'm not saying Walker will be the nominee. But he's what Republicans want, so he should be the nominee. After the Iowa Freedom Summit, Slate's John Dikerson wrote, "as Walker spoke you could almost hear the political boxes being checked off." He bargain-shops at Kohl's like a good, thrifty heartlander! He thanked Iowa voters for their prayers like a good Christian conservative!
Walker's not the front-runner -- but I think he will be.