Sixty-seven percent of Wisconsin voters say that Scott Walker cannot run for president and perform his duties as governor.
The people are right.
Yet the governor has rarely shown much interest in what Wisconsinites think. So he continues to advance a presidential candidacy. Unfortunately for Walker, just as Wisconsinites are sour on his prospective run — 62 percent say he shouldn’t make a national bid, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll — Republicans elsewhere seem to be losing interest.
As Washington’s The Hill newspaper correctly noted last week, “Some air has come out of the Walker balloon.”
At the start of April, Walker was soaring. He was a relatively fresh face who seemed to combine establishment ties (as a sitting governor with support among the party’s billionaire donors) and an ability to appeal to base voters (especially evangelicals in Iowa). But it wasn’t just Iowa; Walker was showing national strength. On April 1, for the first time, he pulled ahead of the default candidate of the party elites, Jeb Bush, in the “poll of polls” aggregation of the Real Clear Politics website.
Walker was doing so well that he was being pictured as the clear rival to Bush. There was also talk that other candidates might decide not to wade into the Bush/Walker race.
But the month of April saw Walker’s national numbers deflate. From 17.3 percent on April 1, he fell to 12.3 percent in early May. He’s now more than three points behind Bush and he’s two points behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
That may not be the worst of it for Wisconsin’s governor. As The Hill notes, “Walker’s support has fallen in Iowa.” A February Quinnipiac poll had Walker at 25 percent in the first-caucus state, with a 12-point lead over the next closest contender. Now, while Walker’s still ahead, he’s down to 21 percent with just an eight-point lead over Rubio.
The real trouble is coming, however. Walker’s inability to secure his position means that more candidates are joining the race. Since Walker was peaking in late March and early April, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee have all announced. And, while Rubio is getting strong numbers nationally, watch for Huckabee to eat right into Walker’s evangelical base in Iowa.
None of this means that Walker is out of the running. It just means that he will have a harder race than his most ardent enthusiasts imagined a month ago, when he was being labeled the new front-runner. And he will not be helped by the news from Wisconsin, where even his fellow Republicans are jettisoning unpopular pieces of the governor’s budget proposal. With revenues stalled and little evidence that Walker’s austerity agenda is working, he’s not looking like the conservative wunderkind anymore — in Wisconsin or nationally.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. email@example.com and @NicholsUprising
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