Election 2020

The Man Who Might Have Been President

Back when the race for the GOP nomination was new and wide-open, I thought Scott Walker would prove to be a formidable candidate. After all, he had beaten the Democrat machine in blue Wisconsin three times in four years, and each time with a greater margin of victory. He knew the face and nasty nature of the enemy. Alas, he fizzled on the debate stage, where his Midwestern reticence was no match for Donald Trump’s bluster and Ted Cruz’s brains.

But with the Wisconsin primary looming on April 5, and an open or contested convention a distinct possibility…

As the Republican presidential primary shifts its focus to Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is poised to re-enter the national spotlight, having suggested this week that he will soon offer his endorsement. Walker said he would weigh in “after Easter, when it would have the maximum impact,” and hinted strongly that he favors Sen. Ted Cruz, who “is the only one who’s got a chance other than Donald Trump to win the nomination.”

“Probably in the next week or so we’ll, one, make a decision whether we’re going to endorse or not; then, secondly, specifically who we’re going to get behind,” Walker told radio host Charlie Sykes. After a recent gathering in New York where Walker thanked some of his former presidential campaign donors, one attendee left with the impression that Walker intends to endorse early this week.

Such an endorsement would mark the two-term governor’s most high-profile moment since he ended his own presidential campaign last year amid low polling and fundraising woes. The fresh attention would not be unwanted: Indeed, he has been slowly but deliberately rebuilding his national brand since that failed spin on the national stage, with a noticeable uptick in networking, speeches and public appearances over the past few months.

[In fact, the endorsement will come tomorrow, and almost certainly for Cruz.]

But Walker isn’t necessarily betting on Cruz to win if the race heads to an open convention in Cleveland. He told reporters this week: “I think if it’s an open convention, it’s very likely it would be someone who’s not currently running.”

Walker is already mapping out his own, more modest convention plans: Prior to the July gathering, Walker will keynote to the Council for National Policy’s board of governors meeting in Cleveland. A source close to the governor said he “is planning to continue to build relationships nationally, which will be vital on a re-elect campaign or any other future step.”

On the immediate horizon, however, is the Wisconsin primary on April 5, with 42 delegates in play. Trump narrowly leads Cruz in the RealClearPolitics polling average, 32 percent to 30.3 percent. Kasich lags behind at 16 percent.

The Trump steamroller — which, in the end, might not bulldoze its way to the necessary 1,237 delegates — knocked several good and worthy candidates out of the race early. How ironic it would be, then, if one of them came back to become the nominee.