To: Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker
You are in the election contest of your life. If you are reelected to a second term as governor of Wisconsin next Tuesday, November 4, regardless of the margin, media all over America will be proclaiming you as the leading centerright Republican candidate for president in 2016 in the event that Jeb Bush doesn’t run.
You have earned your status as a presidential prospect by your success in enacting a bold, courageous, and unquestionably conservative agenda that curtailed the powers of public employee unions, restored fiscal integrity to the state budget, and created the conditions that resulted in healthy economic growth in the Badger State. In appointing judges, you have consistently nominated strict constructionists who refrain from legislating from the bench.
To sum it up, you have been a proud and principled conservative Republican governor who has achieved remarkable success in pursuing the enactment of a Reaganite agenda in Wisconsin, a deep blue state where Barack Obama remains popular. I know something about how blue Wisconsin is: I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Your accomplishments have undoubtedly earned you a proud place in the history of Wisconsin. They also, however, have resulted in your becoming the bete noire of political liberals and public employee union leaders both inside and outside of Wisconsin. They tried to have you defeated in a recall election in 2012, but you prevailed by an even larger margin than in your initial election as governor in 2010.
Still, your political enemies are obsessed by their fears of your potential as a presidential candidate in 2016. So they are now totally focused on defeating you in next Tuesday’s election and electing your Democratic opponent, Mary Burke. Indeed, you are the leading target of the national Democratic Party in next Tuesday’s elections. If you lose, your presidential prospects are over.
You have expressed deep concern that Mary Burke is outspending you on television and that she will have more financial resources in this regard during the last week of the campaign. In an election with a polarized electorate like in Wisconsin in Campaign 2014, however, I do not think that television spending will be the decisive factor. Instead, it will come down to which candidate has the more effective Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) effort.
We in New Jersey have experienced a gubernatorial election where GOTV was the decisive factor: the reelection in 1997 of Republican Governor Christie Whitman over her Democratic opponent, later elected governor himself, Jim McGreevey. This election can provide you with historical guidance – and enhanced hope.
Christie Whitman was an outstanding governor of superb competence and unimpeachable ethics. I was most proud to serve in her administration. On economic development and job growth, she was the most successful governor in America during the 1990s.
Yet like you, Christie Whitman was governing in a deep blue state, and Jim McGreevey was a remarkably effective retail politician with solid support from organized labor. When it comes to Democratic GOTV, organized labor is one of the most effective sources of skilled volunteers. So she faced a most difficult reelection battle.
Fortunately for her, Christie Whitman had had the foresight in 1995 to appoint as chair of the Republican State Committee Garabed “Chuck” Haytaian. Chuck was a supremely effective Republican state party chair who focused his efforts totally on fundraising and developing a strong 1997 Republican GOTV effort. This was the most effective Republican GOTV campaign I have ever seen in New Jersey politics, and it was the decisive factor in the reelection of Governor Whitman on Election Day, 1997. I have been told by many a leading Democrat in New Jersey that they had never seen as effective a Republican GOTV effort in New Jersey as in the campaign of 1997 and that indeed, it was this GOTV campaign that resulted in Governor Whitman’s reelection.
Let me give you some background on Chuck Haytaian, Governor Walker. Chuck served as Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly from 1992 through 1995 and earned a place as one of the most effective legislative leaders in the history of New Jersey. He was the principal architect of the GOP strategy that resulted in the 1991 election of Republican veto-proof majorities in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate. This enabled the Republican -controlled Assembly and Senate to enact, over the then Governor Jim Florio’s veto, a one percent reduction in the then seven percent New Jersey sales tax and budget cuts of $1.4 billion dollars, the largest reductions ever made by a New Jersey legislature in the budget proposed by a governor of the opposite party.
Governor Walker, I suggest you telephone Chuck Haytaian. He will relate in depth his experiences with the New Jersey Republican Party’s 1997 GOTV campaign. To the extent that your 2014 GOTV efforts mirror those of the New Jersey
Republican Party in 1997, the more likely you are to prevail. And you will find Chuck Haytaian, even in retirement, to be a most interesting and entertaining conversationalist!
Governor Walker, best of luck next Tuesday.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations. Under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. He currently serves on the political science faculty of Monmouth University.