Scott Walker: Jeb’s Most Formidable Opponent – And His Best Running Mate

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As reported by The Hill on Sunday, January 25, 2015, Scott Walker scored the first major triumph of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign at this past weekend’s Iowa Freedom Forum. The headline in The Hill was unequivocal: “Scott Walker takes Iowa by storm.” http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/230647-walker-takes-iowaI wa-by-storm

I was not surprised at all by the Wisconsin governor’s coup. In my PolitickerNJ.com column of November 24, 2014, “My Wisconsin Experience and Scott Walker,” (http://politickernj.com/2014/11/my-wisconsin-experience-and-scott-walker/), I had forecast that Walker would become the candidate of the movement conservatives, one of the four major national constituencies in play for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, the other three being the Libertarians, Center-Right Republicans and the Donor Class Republicans. As I further stated in this column, Walker’s hold on the movement conservative constituency is due to his success as Wisconsin governor in enacting the boldest conservative agenda implemented by a state government during the last fifty years. The Iowa Freedom Forum was a movement conservative event, and thus a natural for Walker and his message to dominate.

At this point, Rand Paul continues to consolidate his hold on the libertarians while Jeb is well on his way to capturing control of the donor class. Thus, as of now, only Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker have one of the four GOP national constituencies as a base. These are the only three putative candidates with any realistic chance of winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, the other candidates being irrelevant non-factors. Whichever of these three candidates captures the majority of the fourth constituency, namely, the center-right Republicans, will emerge as the nominee. It is doubtful that Paul will be able to make serious inroads among center-right Republicans, given his views on certain social and foreign policy issues. The race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination will ultimately be a contest between Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

It must be noted that Walker has wisely balanced his responsibilities as governor of Wisconsin and potential presidential candidate since his November reelection victory. He fully realizes that a governor will have no chance of raising the needed funds from major donors for a presidential run if his poll numbers are upside down in his home state. Accordingly, Walker has avoided any excessive out of state travel which could jeopardize his continuing strong popularity in Wisconsin.

Yet in addition to his hold on the national constituency of movement conservatives, Scott Walker may well command a regional constituency as well, namely the Midwestern states, including his home state of Wisconsin and Iowa, where Walker spent much of his childhood. This regional constituency may well enable Walker to thwart Jeb’s march towards the nomination. Specifically, if the combination of the regional constituency factor and the large presence of movement conservatives in the Hawkeye State enable Walker to win the Iowa caucuses, this may give him the momentum to win the New Hampshire primary. A loss in New Hampshire could throw a monkey wrench into the Jeb strategy for an early knockout.

The current 2016 primary schedule has not yet been firmly established – read this webpage, which is the best guide to the current scheduling situation (http://frontloading.blogspot.com/p/2016-presidential-primary-calendar.html). Yet even before the schedule has been finalized, Jeb’s early knockout strategy is clear: Win New Hampshire, then South Carolina, finally follow up with victories in Florida and Texas, all by the beginning of March, 2016. This would virtually guarantee Jeb the nomination, even if Walker wins the Michigan primary the week before the Florida and Texas primaries.

If Jeb loses New Hampshire to Walker, however, this may well give the Wisconsin governor the additional momentum to win South Carolina and even the Bush family home state of Texas, due to the large number of movement conservatives in both states. In the weeks that follow the Florida and Texas contests, there are primaries in the key Midwestern states of Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The Midwestern regional factor would make Walker the favorite to win these states and thus give him further momentum as he and Jeb approach the denouement of the campaign in the decisive California primary.

The hope of Jeb’s campaign is that his major financial edge over Walker, combined with the support of those long time Bush family friends, former Governor John H. Sununu and his son, the former U.S. Senator John E. Sununu and hopefully U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte will give Jeb victory in New Hampshire, regardless of any Walker momentum from an Iowa caucuses victory. If Jeb prevails over Walker and clinches the nomination early, it will also become evident that Scott Walker will be the logical selection for his vice-presidential running mate. The reason is simple: Scott Walker is the running mate who could best enable Jeb to carry the five key battleground states he needs to win against his likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 general election for the presidency.

I discussed the concept of 2016 battleground states in my December 24, 2014 PolitickerNJ.com column, “Presidential Campaign 2016: The Five Key Battleground States” (http://politickernj.com/2014/12/presidential-campaign-2016-the-five-key-battleground-states/). Based on additional data I have reviewed since then, I have substituted Iowa for Minnesota as a battleground state. The five battleground states, comprising a total of 67 electoral votes, are now as follows: Florida (29), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Iowa (6), Colorado (9).

Mitt Romney won 24 states with 206 electoral votes in 2012, and it is a safe bet that as the 2016 GOP nominee, Jeb would win all of those states. In order for him to win the necessary 270 electoral votes, he must carry all five of the above mentioned battleground states. No potential running mate could assist Jeb better in this regard than Scott Walker.

Jeb’s enduring popularity as an accomplished former governor should enable him to carry Florida. Walker’s home state popularity could enable the Bush-Walker ticket to carry Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin governor’s regional appeal will be a vital asset in enabling this ticket to carry Iowa.

There are many factors affecting the GOP effort to carry the remaining two presidential campaign battleground states of Virginia and Colorado. In my view, the most significant factor will be the ability of the ticket to stimulate the involvement and turnout of the movement conservative base in each of these two states, particularly those movement conservative voters who are lukewarm about a Jeb Bush candidacy. No running mate could be more effective in attaining this objective than Scott Walker.

A Jeb Bush-Scott Walker ticket would feature a former governor and current governor, both of outstanding executive acumen and major substantive accomplishment. Each is an individual of intellectual stature and leadership gravitas, a person with a presidential image other than that of a mere entertainment or theatrical personality. Indeed, a Jeb Bush-Scott Walker ticket is not just a Campaign 2016 possibility but perhaps even a probability.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Under Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

Scott Walker: Jeb’s Most Formidable Opponent – And His Best Running Mate