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GOP 2016 Presidential race, Scott Walker speaks at CPAC 2015, AP photo

Gov. Scott Walker waves while speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference on in February.

CLIFF OWEN — Associated Press archives

National buzz has been building around Gov. Scott Walker in recent months as his all-but-announced bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has continued to take shape.

But while Walker has certainly been nabbing plenty of coverage lately from news outlets, it remains to be seen whether he can recapture the public's attention on a national scale the way he did with his anti-union legislation in 2011 and when he defeated a recall attempt the following year.

Here are some charts from Google Trends that help illustrate Walker's challenge in recapturing the imaginations of conservatives nationally. Google Trends is probably most well-known for helping predict where the flu will arrive next by analyzing searches for flu-related terms, but it's also generally considered to be a good tool for taking a snapshot of the national zeitgeist.

Search interest over time

The chart below shows the relative volume of Google searches for Scott Walker in the U.S. since January 2010.

The two peaks are from February 2011 — when Walker proposed his "budget repair bill" drastically curbing the bargaining rights of public sector unions, setting off months of protests and recall efforts against Walker and his legislative supporters — and June 2012, when Walker became the first governor in the nation's history to defeat a recall effort.

(Note: All of the charts in this story represent relative search volume, not absolute volume. So, for instance, the second peak on the chart below shows that there were about 73 percent as many searches for Scott Walker in June 2012 as there were in February 2011, but doesn't say anything about how many searches there were for Scott Walker compared to all other searches on Google in that month.)

Now, those were major national news events, and one certainly wouldn't expect national interest in Walker to have exceeded those heights so early in his expected campaign.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence that Walker's campaign is having an impact. He saw a rise in interest in November after winning a second term, and then an even bigger rise last month as reporting from his speeches in Iowa and other parts of the country began to get noticed by political trackers.

He even was the No. 7 most-searched-for politician in February, according to Google.

Interest by region

But where is that interest coming from? If Walker wants to appeal to a national audience, he'll eventually need to become a household name outside of Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest.

This next chart shows where searches for Scott Walker have originated so far in 2015. 

Most of the public interest in Walker outside of Wisconsin comes from the state's neighbors Minnesota and Illinois. But people in Washington, D.C., and parts of the Northeast have begun to take note as well.

Absent from the list are Iowa and New Hampshire — which host the first caucus and primary in the nation and are critical states for serious presidential aspirants. But that likely has more to do with those states' relatively low populations than with Walker's name recognition there.

What's the buzz?

But what is Walker getting attention for? The tables below show the top 10 most popular Walker-related search queries and the 10 rising trends so far in 2015.

Top queries
Rising queries

In the rising column, Walker is getting some attention after having to walk back a comment he made at CPAC where he said facing down pro-union protesters prepared him to face Islamic State terrorists, as well as for his campaigning efforts in Iowa and his proposed 2015-17 state budget.

But perhaps the best news for Walker in the queries is his pairing with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. A governor from purple Wisconsin being thought of in the same cohort with Bush (the odds-on favorite at this point to be the "establishment choice") is probably a promising sign of Walker's political future on the national stage.

Still haven't had enough?

For those true political junkies out there. Here's one final chart. This one compares Walker's Google buzz in the last 12 months relative to that of four of his probable opponents (Walker's line is blue). Because really, Walker isn't running against himself from three years ago. He's running against other people scrambling for the same limited American attention spans he is.

If the stratospheric rise of searches for Sen. Ted Cruz (purple) following the official launch of his campaign on Monday is any indicator, Walker's search numbers are likely to eclipse those from the Act 10 days once he announces his intentions.

(Google Trends only allows comparisons of up to 5 topics in a single chart. So, sorry Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Marco Rubio.)


Nick Heynen is the online editor for the Wisconsin State Journal and manages the newspaper's social media accounts. A Maryland native transplanted to Wisconsin, he joined the paper in 2007 as data reporter.