Scott Walker

Scott Walker

A funny thing happened after Scott Walker made his game-changing speech at last January's Iowa Freedom Summit: The people back home started to dislike him.

Just three months after the Wisconsin governor convinced the nation that he was a viable presidential candidate, 60 percent of Wisconsin voters, according to one poll, said they didn't want him to run. The St. Norbert College poll also put the percentage of voters who disapproved of his job performance at 58 percent. A Marquette Law School poll from around the same time put his approval rating at a mere 41 percent, down eight points from the previous fall.

That begs the question, posed here by Robert Schlesinger of US News and World Report, "What's the point of passing severely conservative laws if they make the populace hate you?"

And it's not just Walker that's betting on national popularity as opinions at home are on the wane. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, with a 32 percent approval rating in May, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with 30 percent, are vying with Walker -- and a raft of other hopefuls -- for the GOP nomination.

And this, writes Schlesinger, is unprecedented.

"I did some digging back into the poll numbers of previous gubernatorial candidates and found no precedent for this level of political hubris," Schlesinger writes in a column posted Friday. "As a general matter – and no surprise – governors tend to run for president from a popular place at home, not as an escape."

Schlesinger is just one national commentator taking note of Walker's pitfalls at home as he gears up for Monday's announcement of a presidential bid. Bob Secter of the Los Angeles Times took a look at this year's messy budget deliberations as a factor that could come back and bite Walker in the rear.

One budget fact that resonates: Walker went into the 2015-16 budget with a $2.2 billion deficit, just about the same amount he served up in tax cuts during his first term.

"Sharp divisions between Walker and legislators about how to solve the problem have complicated his plans for formally entering the already crowded field of GOP presidential hopefuls," writes Secter. "When he does, his financial stewardship may prove more political vulnerability than bragging point."

On an even more sour note, Michael Brendan Dougherty of The Week writes that Walker's presidential campaign may be over before it begins.

"Scott Walker is likely to announce his official entrance into the race soon," Dougherty writes. "But the months leading up to it have left him looking diminished."

Dougherty points to Walker's muddy stances on touchy issues like immigration, ethanol and education, which are giving the once-rising conservative star a reputation as something of a screw up.

"But for those watching the race closely, and those who have a role in shaping perceptions of Walker, it's been a bad first half of 2015 for the governor of Wisconsin," Dougherty writes. "He has to start changing that right now, before he's shoved to the back of the GOP's clown car."

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.