Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The gubernatorial darkhorse: Scott Walker

Despite Scott Walker seemingly to have been around forever, Governor Walker is just now finishing his first term as Governor of Wisconsin.  Walker's first term was marked by controversy when he decided to cut collective bargaining rights for public union employees.  There was a statewide recall vote, which Walker survived, thanks to the help of his supporters and those who didn't believe in a recall, in the first place.  He is running for re-election in 2014 but has not ruled out the idea of running for President or not serving a four-year term as Governor.

But if he's serious about running for President in 2016, he needs to be able to win re-election in Wisconsin by a somewhat convincing margin.  His favorability numbers for Wisconsin are fairly low at 48/49 via Public Policy Polling.  The reason for these numbers might be in part due to low job growth.  He promised at the beginning of his first term that Wisconsin would add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his first term.  According to the Current Employment Statistics, Walker has created 88,000 jobs in his nearly three years as Governor.  Because of his low favorability numbers, I was willing to write off Walker running for President, or even have a real shot at re-election in Wisconsin.  But, Walker leads Democratic challengers in head to heat match-ups leading Mary Burke, 48-42 and Kathleen Vinehout 47-41.

If Walker runs for President, he has some work to do.  The recent poll in Iowa that found his statemate Paul Ryan winning the Iowa caucus found that 46% of Republicans viewed Walker favorably.  His favorability among all Iowa voters was 26/26.  Public Policy Polling, who does polls for the 206 race, already found that Walker was only polling at 3% among the GOP candidates.  He would need to work on his name recognition, if he was serious about running in 2016.  Somewhat surprisingly, Walker was polling at 10% with those who consider themselves moderate.  The more conservative wing of the GOP base have found others to support, instead of Walker.  The last poll that Public Policy Polling conducted was during the height of Ted Cruz's popularity.  As Cruz's popularity fades, Republicans will begin to look for a conservative voice that can also appeal to moderates.  The more conservative wing of the GOP has already voiced displeasure with Chris Christie.  Christie's popularity with those who consider themselves "very conservative" is extremely low, polling at 3% according to Public Policy Polling.  Those members of the GOP who consider themselves to be moderate or somewhat liberal are much more supportive of Christie.   If the view that the Republican Party needs to nominate someone outside of Washington, D.C., Walker might get another shot.

In all honesty, even knowing the polling numbers, I was not impressed with Walker's campaign for President.  But I heard him on NPR give an interview about his new book.  In the interview, he gives a very calm description about his battles with organized labor.  He talks about how reasonable his views were and how he was able to compromise with them, without giving up his Conservative ideals.  This will appeal to Republicans everywhere.  Even some moderates.  Walker's ending quote in the NPR article highlighted what he saw as his biggest problem.  It wasn't that his views were wrong or that they were unpopular.  He was just "so eager to fix things that I came in and just fixed them without talking about them."  Of course this is a ridiculous view.  But it's what many people want to hear, a pragmatic problem solver who shares their view.  He, not only, fixes things, he does it the right way.  He should just explain it to more people.

Walker was one of 25 Republican governors who  rejected the Medicaid expansion with the Affordable Care Act.  Walker wanted to transfer many people about of BadgerCare, the Wisconsin version of Medicaid.  At the same time that Walker announced cancelling the health insurance plans of 77,000 Wisconsinites, he announced adding 83,000 Wisconsinites to the program.  The 77,000 were cut off was because he changed eligibility income from 200% above the poverty line to 100%.  Those who make between 100-200% of the poverty line now have to buy health insurance on the state health care exchange.

In doing so, Walker tacitly endorsed the Affordable Care Act.  "You're going to hear some detractors claim that moving people to the private market or to the exchanges, isn't affordable."  But he argues that people aren't aware of how the subsidies will drive down the cost of coverage.  He stated that many people will find monthly premiums under $20.  But Walker also stated that he would tweak his plan because of the "troubled" roll-out of the healthcare.gov website.  Apparently, Walker only agrees with the Affordable Care Act, when it suits him.  A non-partisan review estimates that this move and rejecting federal dollars for Medicaid, will cost the state $460 million for the rest of the decade.  But Walker will continue to fight for the soul of the Republican by refusing to move to the center.

Walker needs to continue to doing interviews, promoting his book, and needs to get re-elected  in Wisconsin, if he wants a shot at running for President in 2016.  As more Republican strategist believe the Republican Party needs to look outside of Washington, D.C. for presidential aspirations, they will continue to look for a real leader.  While Republican leaders such as Chris Christie have angered the base of the Republican Party, Walker will look to be a viable alternative.  

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