Before there was Donald Trump or Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina, there was Scott Walker — a defiant outsider who portrayed himself as the regular-guy champion of the GOP’s burn-the-Beltway base. After a promising start last winter, the two-term Wisconsin governor turned out to be a tentative and mistake-prone candidate who badly fumbled core Republican issues — especially birthright citizenship — that Trump and other top GOP candidates handled with relative ease.
Several senior Republicans with knowledge of his campaign said the 47-year-old Walker — who won two elections and survived a recall effort without the help of national consultants — was simply too confident in his own abilities and often acted, ineptly, as his own campaign manager. “The impression I had,” said one veteran GOP operative, “was that Scott was making it up as he went along.”
The anonymice speak. And of course they’re saying exactly what you’d expect a fraternity of hacks to say. But the fact remains that Walker defeated the full might of the DNC and the “public employee” trade unions without the help of the Krack Kadres and yet felt the need to hire one of their number for his now-abortive presidential run.
Liz Mair, a former Walker aide who was fired earlier this year, took to Twitter on Monday to enumerate the mistakes her one-time boss had made — and said he often seemed overmatched by the velocity and information overload inherent in a modern presidential campaign. At the top of her list: “Not educating himself fast enough on issues outside governor’s remit” and “Not training himself out of tics incl[uding] instinctively answering ‘yes’ and ‘absolutely’ to things, comparing lots of things to union fight.”
Yeah, that Liz Mair. The fact is, Walker, hired terrible people who atomized his political strengths while trying to turn him into an acceptable candidate for the GOPe. (Hey — that’s Marco Rubio’s job!) Apparently, they all read from the same missal, sing the same hymn songs and preach to the same choir, which is why we have had a succession of Republican candidates like Bob Dole, Bush II. McCain, Romney and, soon enough, Jeb! or Rubio. Because, the first rule of GOPe Club is don’t offend anybody.
Walker’s campaign had been imploding for weeks, but his public low point — and one that made him vulnerable to charges of weakness — was his stumbling response to the birthright citizenship proposal, a quixotic bid to challenge the 14th Amendment guarantee that all people born in the U.S. be given citizenship rights. Over the course of seven days in August, Walker rattled out no fewer than three positions — a call to challenge the amendment, a solid “no” when asked if he planned to challenge existing laws, and a call for the status quo.
How’d that work out of ya, Scott?
The two Republican debates — which might have served as a safety net for his free-falling candidacy — were unmemorable, and his bland passivity at last Wednesday’s otherwise raucous showdown proved fatal. On a night when Carly Fiorina rose, instantly, from the ranks of also-rans to second or third place, Walker found himself shut out of the back-and-forth — logging a mere eight minutes of talk time, compared with Trump’s 20 despite his best efforts to interrupt.
“He was a terrible candidate, but he also got Trump-ed,” said one Walker ally.
With friends like the Krack Kadres of Kampaign Konsultants, people like Walker don’t need enemies.