Ed Kilgore brought my attention to a new conservative meme: liberals are afraid of Scott Walker. Now that Republicans everywhere are excited by union busting, education destroying, rich people’s tax cutting wunderkind Scott Walker, Democrats must be afraid of him. After all, he’s won several elections in a blue state. The American people must be just all excited to vote for him. California will go red in 2016! It will be Ronald Reagan 2.0! Happy days are here again! And why not?! It isn’t like the American worker really has anything more to lose at this point.
Let’s just start with the idea that Walker’s golden boy status is going to last for another year and half to get him nominated. I don’t buy it. Ultimately, the guy just isn’t that interesting. His big advantage is that he is clearly a favorite of the big money Republican donors. And that may be enough. But his recent makeover really has nothing to do with that. He was always really loved by these people. And I suppose the Republican voters will go along with him. But there is no reason to think that he poses any special threat to the Democratic Party. It really won’t matter if the Republicans nominate Walker or Christie or Bush. It’s all going to be the same thing.
The comparison with Chris Christie is particularly apt. Even at the height of his popularity in New Jersey, Christie still wouldn’t have won his own state in a presidential race. There are two aspects of this. First is the fact that people think differently about governors and presidents. Liberal leaning voters will go with a “moderate” Republican as governor when they wouldn’t consider the same candidate for president. Look at Mitt Romney. He was governor of Massachusetts. And in 2014, the Republican candidate won the governorship by two percentage points. Yet in 2012, Romney lost the presidential election by over 23 percentage points.
The other issue is that more people vote during presidential election years. Republicans get an extra advantage in governorships by running in off year elections. Scott Walker became governor in 2010 and then was re-elected in 2014 — two very good years for Republicans. If he gets the Republican nomination for president in 2016, he will lose the state of Wisconsin — and he will lose it badly.
But there is a more important issue. That is just the political science of it. Within limits, there are no good candidates and no bad candidates. There is no doubt that Scott Walker is a good enough candidate. If the economy tanks in the first nine months of 2016, the Republican candidate will win the presidency, as long as he isn’t some freak. So sure, if the Republicans nominate Louie Gohmert or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin, then they will lose. Scott Walker isn’t in that league. But few Republicans are. That doesn’t make Democrats fear him. And that’s because Democrats aren’t idiots. They don’t expect that the Republicans are going to nominate a true loon. So Scott Walker worries us as much as any “mainstream” Republican. And at this point, that isn’t much at all.
Speaking as a Democrat, I can tell you want scares me: the American electorate. These are people who don’t understand anything about economics. These are people who vote for whichever party they associate with good economic times. If the economy is doing well, they vote for the party that is in office. If the economy is doing poorly, they vote for the party that is out of office. This doesn’t make any sense at all. I don’t like the idea that the party in control of the nation is based on random chance. That’s what scares me. But Scott Walker? Give me a break!