For much of this year, I really thought that Scott Walker was the most likely person for the Republicans to pick for their nominee. Part of this was just that I thought the Republicans would not pick another Bush. I mean, really: it’s embarrassing. This is the top pick of the “deep bench”? A third Bush?! Republicans don’t even like the first one. And everyone knows that the second one was a catastrophe. But Walker was everything that Republicans dream of: a hardcore union buster who is also washed in Jesus’ blood. And he even seemed to be getting a little fiery on the campaign trail. But now: nothing.
It seems to me the biggest problem is that Scott Walker is a follower, not a leader. And frankly, this is a big problem in the Republican field. It is probably one of the reasons that Trump is getting so much traction. Most of the others seem like they are afraid of going off script. This is especially true of Scott Walker. I don’t feel any passion in him. If he became president, it would be hard not to see him as a puppet of the Koch brothers. It’s hard for the Republican base to get excited about him when they see themselves as “bold” and “decisive” and (this is really funny) “independent.”
But the most obvious manifestation of this is the fact that Scott Walker is boring. And Matt Yglesias noticed that the newest ad for the guy just highlights this. It “casts Walker’s 2011 showdown with Wisconsin’s civilian public sector labor unions as a kind of awesome, exciting action movie.” It also, it should be added, totally distorts the whole thing. (“Liberal activists”? I think they were actually workers.) But Walker has been doing that all along. To me, all his talk of death threats just makes him seem weak. “Don’t get out of the car! Ordinary Americans are scary!” Again: he’s just being the good soldier for the Koch brothers.
Still, this campaign ad looks pretty good — right up to the part where Walker starts talking:
Yglesias’ argument is that Walker is the Tim Pawlenty of this campaign cycle. In a lot of ways, that seems to be fair. In particular, they look good on paper but they just don’t excite the voters. And maybe that’s a big part of the problem. Looking good on paper is good for a job interview or getting into college. But it doesn’t get you named prom queen. And that’s especially so when all the other people you are running against look fairly good on paper too.
But Yglesias attacks Pawlenty for the following video. His point is “the more amped up your video content gets, the more it sends the dullness of the candidate into stark relief.” I don’t think that’s the problem. I think Pawlenty’s ad works great. Maybe it didn’t contrast well to the candidate on the stump; but just looking at this ad, Pawlenty looks impressive:
Tim Pawlenty didn’t inspire in 2012. Part of that was his campaign. And given the way the campaign went — with Rick Santorum becoming a contender — I think Pawlenty might have succeeded if he had stayed in. There are fundamental differences between him and Scott Walker. First, he was clearly smart. Second, he seemed like he was at least in charge of himself. I really think that the way the Republican base sees Walker can be summed up in an honest slogan, “Scott Walker: He’ll Do As He’s Told!” And that is his ultimate problem.