Political reality check: It’s still too early

It’s possible you’re not going to have Scott Walker to kick around anymore. Except you, Wisconsin, you’re probably going to have him for awhile.

A few months ago, the Wisconsin governor was living high as a frontrunner. What’s happened since is a good example of why it’s not worth paying attention to presidential campaigns more than a year before the general election.

The usual suspects are already burying him.

Reporters have to cover these things and every day is a struggle to come up with something new. Donald Trump fits the bill because every day he says something new. The media reports it, the people hear the news that’s dominated by someone saying something new (and outrageous), the polls reflect the attention, the media reports on the polls and the cycle begins anew. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

America usually sobers up after the various daliances of summer and history says it will with Trump too.

In an article today, The Week takes particular note of Walker’s apparent demise.

Want an outsider? Walker has never worked in Washington. Before winning the gubernatorial election in 2010, Walker was the Milwaukee County executive for more than eight years, and served nine years in the state legislature before that. His Senate rivals may have to dance around their brief time in Washington, and Bobby Jindal’s House career might be a slight negative in an anti-establishment era, but Walker has no such baggage.

Want a fighter? Walker fought and beat the public-employee unions in Wisconsin, and then fought and beat them again in a recall election and a second gubernatorial bid. That’s three election victories in four years. He drew heat from around the country on that fight and never backed down, and then added wins on other conservative agenda items such as Right to Work and voter ID laws.

Want a departure from the elite to the hoi polloi? Walker is custom made for the role. He shops at Kohl’s, had never earned six figures until becoming governor, and has amassed little wealth in 48 years. He is the antithesis of Mitt Romney — a man of modest means and modest background who went into politics to serve rather than enrich himself.

In short, Walker checked all the boxes that Republicans wanted after a disappointing loss in 2012. And it turns out that none of that mattered as much to Republicans three years later as putting a thumb in the eye of the party’s establishment. Voters are turning to outsiders in a reaction to a lack of action, real or perceived, from the Republican Party after winning two midterm elections.

Now here’s a reminder that far too few political reporters are noting with any clarity: It’s still ridiculously early. As The Week notes, “populist crushes don’t usually last long.”

Related: How the season of Trump changed Scott Walker (CNN)

  • crystals

    It IS ridiculously early, but can someone suddenly become engaging and interesting in the span of just a few months? In this era of exposure and sound bites, charisma matters (for better or worse) and he seems totally devoid of it. I’ve not yet seen any flashes of those characteristics from Walker, and that’s the main reason I think he’s floundering. This is an election where you’ve got to capture hearts and minds quickly or you’ll get lost in the crowd, and in the first presidential debate I found myself zoning out every time he spoke because he wasn’t catching me with either his policies or his personality.

    If/when the populist crush bursts, I still think Rubio is the one that’s going to benefit most.

  • jon

    At the start of the article I was kind of hoping that candidates were already dropping out of the race…

    Should have known better, every republican candidate is just waiting for trump to burn out and then looking to see how much of his portion of the pie they can pick up.

    • Rob

      Walker probably has a realistic chance of gaining a good share too. He’s Trump crazy without the hair and ego. Source: Am Wisconsinite

      • jon

        yeah, but that description could be applied to most of the candidates for the republican nomination.

    • No reason for anyone to drop out of the race yet. People aren’t making traction in Iowa? Too bad. But the presidency — at least for Republicans — shouldn’t go through Iowa to begin with.

      • Gary F

        Even Rick Perry is thinking of dropping out. You are right, no reason to drop out now, hang in there, spend wisely. This Trump thing can’t last. Trump may do well in primary states but will do poorly in caucus states because he doesn’t have a ground organization. Trumps appeal right now is that he isn’t afraid of the media, he takes them straight on. The others know the media is in the bag for the Democratic candidate and wants to catch them on a gotcha question. Trump has taken his lumps, but he keeps on fighting. It would be nice to see this out of the other candidates.

        • Postal Customer

          “This Trump thing can’t last.”

          The “experts” were saying that two months ago.

        • chris

          Face it, the GOP is stuck with Trump. I don’t know how you can say with a straight face that “the media” is in the bag for Dems when Fox ratings are as high as they are. Your script is worn out.

          • Gary F

            And the Dems will be stuck with one of the OLD WHITE GUYS.

        • jon

          Fox news was in the bag for the republican party… hell it was the bag for the republican party…

          Trump is involved in a name calling match with one of their anchorwomen.

          The real appeal of Trump is that the “Gaff” that has plagued campaigns in the 24 hour news cycle don’t stick to him, mostly because we all expect them, and he is going to be making another one in the next couple of hours.
          With that in mind there is only one democrat I know of who can match him at that level… Biden, king of saying and doing ridiculous things, and being judged for it by the media, but I doubt they’ll fight fire with fire.

  • Gary F

    Trump is sucking all the air out of the room. Funny how a pro-abortion, pro-tax, pro-gun control, pro-big government blowhard can grab so much attention.

    With Hillary possibly trading in her orange pantsuit for an orange jumpsuit, and the non establishment GOP candidates getting good ratings, this could get really weird.

    • >>With Hillary possibly trading in her orange pantsuit for an orange jumpsuit<<

      Hasn't the right been saying this about the Clintons for decades?

      And what, if anything, has she done that would warrant prison time?

      /Yes Bob, I gave Gary an opening. Sorry about that.

      • NOPE. We’re not doing that discussion here.

        • chris

          Then delete Gary’s comment. It is pure trolling.

          • I can handle the moderating, Chris. Thanks.

          • chris

            Yes Bob, I’m aware you are in charge. It seems strange to let such an obvious trolling comment stand but object to the inevitable response.

          • It’s fair game, I guess to tinge comments with a disparaging remark about a political opponent. Like it or not, Clinton’s email use is a political story right now.

            And Gary’s overall comment is consistent with the blog post.

            Where I draw the line is when the comment thread is pulled off in a complete direction that has NOTHING to do with the blog post.

            Like this one.

  • Postal Customer

    Walker has all the charisma of Tim Pawlenty but with an added metric tonne of evil. Amazingly, that doesn’t spell victory in today’s wackadoodle GOP.

    • Heh, nice.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      That may be true, but it was about this time 4 years ago that T-Paw dropped out of the race.

  • MikeB

    We are still in the entertainment phase, sound bites and catchy phrases carry the day. Politics is sports for other people, so it’s something to spend time and mental energy on. Campaigns don’t end until they run out of money, Perry just doesn’t have a billionaire behind him to keep him in.

    If you based a movie on this people would find it ridiculous. Pass the popcorn in the meantime

    • crystals

      The books Game Change and Double Down, which document the behind the scenes shenanigans of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, really are the real life political equivalent of a soap opera. (At least for geeks like me.)

  • Nick K

    Maybe we’re looking at this wrong. Maybe we should explore what is going on with the US, as a country, that we have a climate where people listen to Donald Trump and think – “Hey, that loud guy with the goofy hair is really onto something”.

    • Khatti

      ‘”Hey, that loud guy with the goofy hair is really onto something'”.

      I feel compelled to observe that this description also fits Bernie Sanders.

    • I don’t think that’s what people are thinking. I think he’s validating people.

      • Nick K

        Doesn’t really change the point, does it? If people are upset at what Trump says (and people are) and other people really like what he is saying (and it seems like it is true) then, it might be valuable to explore why so many people feel that way.

        • It’s not bard to figure out. The angry white man has always had a constituency. It’s probably THE easiest constituency to get riled up this far out. We”ve seen it before.

          But two summer’s before an election is just a silly time to use to project a political landscape onto the subsequent election.

          That’s the point.

  • John O.

    Trump is the only one of the Republicans who can campaign at full throttle (and raise money) without having to kiss the rings of the Koch brothers. The end game is going to be interesting to watch–assuming Trump goes the distance to Cleveland next summer.

    • Khatti

      Though not as interesting as a Trump Presidency would be to watch. Note that I didn’t say ‘productive’ just ‘interesting’.

      • John O.

        I seriously doubt Trump would have the patience to deal with the 535 Members of Congress. Why do the words “You’re fired” come to mind? :*)

    • crystals

      I’m still trying to figure out if the Republican nomination even IS Trump’s end game. (And then I hate myself for devoting brain cells to him.)

      • John

        I’ve been wondering that same thing. I don’t think presidency is his goal. I think he’s up to something else. He hasn’t had to spend much money. It sure seems like the cable news networks are doing his advertising for him.

        I think he was out playing golf or having brunch with the Koch brothers, and got the idea (or made a bet) that he could outpace the entire field without taking any money from anyone (or something like that). So, here we are.

        Also, Trump’s main job in life these days seems to be feeding his own ego, so it may be less complicated than I think it is

        • >>Also, Trump’s main job in life these days seems to be feeding his own ego, so it may be less complicated than I think it is<<

          With that in mind, I don't think it's too far-fetched to rule out a third-party campaign from Trump…

          • John

            That would be an interesting thing indeed. I believe he would have the same effect that Ross Perot had back in those days. In other words, that would hurt the Republican party’s chances of getting the white house in a very significant way.

            This may also be his goal. hard to say, really. i could totally see Trump working now to drive down the resources of the party in the primaries (while feeding his ego), and then running independent to split the Republican vote in the general election. Why he’d want the dem’s to win, however, is something I can’t answer (other than because he’s Trump, and maybe he thinks it’s funny.)

      • Noelle

        My husband and I were trying to figure that out too, wondering if the GOP has some actual legitimate candidate in their back pocket that they’re going to bring out at the last minute (but who that would actually be is a big question).

  • lindblomeagles

    Although it’s early and there is still a long way to go, Scott Walker’s first debate did not go well; even if Trump, Fiorini, and Carson fall back to earth, Walker is still competing against 15 people for the Presidential Nomination. He’s got a long way to go to win it.

  • rosswilliams

    Trump is not a “populist crush”, he is a celebrity who knows how to feed the media the steady stream of interesting stories it thrives on. Its great entertainment and people like that. His problem is that the election will go through Iowa and in that environment of retail politics the people who seriously want to chose a president will quickly lose interest in him. Remember Michelle Bachman?