Gov. Scott Walker has been simultaneously running for reelection while preparing a 2016 presidential run: Political trips to Iowa (Walker spent his early childhood there); Campaigning for other GOP politicians, building up chits and exposure; Requisite campaign book written with a Washington insider; Speeches out West (Walker was born in Colorado) before wealthy GOP corporate benefactors; and Walker op-eds in the Washington Post.
Walker's reelection as gov. was seen as a cakewalk. Democratic opposition was denigrated as weak. Political analysts and pollsters were all aboard the train of inevitability. There would be a coronation. However, the voters were not consulted. Neither was Mary Burke, an independent, progressive and scrappy businesswoman.
Burke, a born and bred Wisconsinite (4th generation), briskly stepped into the race (prior to running she helped lead Trek Bicycle, a family founded Wisconsin business success). Burke crisscrossed Wisconsin, introducing herself to voters and listening to their concerns. Voters were receptive to the Burke bread-and-butter message of moving the state forward economically while healing the Walker imposed divisiveness. State and national pundits began to do a double take: Burke was rising in the polls.
Meanwhile, Walker's presidential aspirations faded as a state investigation looked into his past campaign fundraising, duplicity and secret money contributions. The New York Times said the revelations have "clouded the White House prospects of Mr. Walker". Moreover, Walker faced dire reelection problems. Burke has been giving him the run of his life. She emphasizes that Walker had not delivered on his central premise of 250,000 jobs, not even close. And, her mantra of doing what works and giving every Wisconsinite a "fair shot" seems downright sensible compared to Walker's Tea Party orthodoxy. For example, Burke supports Medicaid expansion with 100 percent federal funding. Great for those who need health care coverage and state taxpayers.
A Washington Post headline said it all: "RGA (Republican Governors Association) Post reporter, said: "Walker is far more worried than he was in previous contests - less confident that he can fend off a challenge from Democrat Mary Burke, who is running a competitive race by targeting slow job growth during Walker's tenure." What's left for Walker?
It's Halloween. Time for the Walker campaign and allies to insult and scare voters. Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said: "I don't want to say anything about your Wisconsin voters but, some of them may not be as sharp as a knife". Insult received. Then there is Walker saying Madison voters are "angry" at him. He is adept at putting Madison and Milwaukee down with small-minded sound bites. Later, ambitious career politician Walker falsely called Burke "the candidate of Washington". For Walker, it's about his future and presidential aspirations. For Burke, it's about the future for Wisconsin voters.
-- Bill Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.