This week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker officially became the 15th (!) Republican to announce his candidacy for president. Walker has been expected to run since the get-go, but his potential appeal to the conservative base has been overshadowed by legions of contenders. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush continues to dominate the polls, but Donald Trump and Chris Christie are quickly gaining on him. Of these four, however, only Walker brings with him a tightly braided combination of conservatism and experience.
Among the accomplishments Walker will be able to promote on the campaign trail:
– Cutting Wisconsin income and property taxes by almost $2 billion
– Legalizing concealed carry
– Restrictions on abortion
– Implementing drug screenings for welfare recipients
– Requiring ID to vote in elections
But Walker is perhaps best known for his protracted fight against the powerful Wisconsin labor unions. He single-handedly spearheaded the fight to change Wisconsin into a right-to-work state, a fact that makes him deeply unpopular among blue collar Democrats. He survived a major challenge to his governorship, becoming the first governor in the nation’s history to defeat a recall election.
Does all of this conspire to make Walker the new best hope for the Republican Party?
Quite possibly. The top of the contender’s field right now is populated by candidates who bring considerable drawbacks to the table. Bush has been accused of being a liberal in disguise, and Christie has been subject to much of the same criticism. Trump has many conservatives excited for the first time in ages, but there are still serious doubts as to his general election viability. Other candidates like Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, and Lindsey Graham have lost much of their political steam.
If Walker has a weakness, it likely lies in the realm of foreign policy. That’s not unusual for a governor, of course, and it doesn’t really position him at a disadvantage when running against Bush. At the same time, it could hurt him if he winds up head to head with Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee. Clinton has little in the way of foreign accomplishments, but she can at least point to a record of some kind.
On the other hand, the Obama foreign policy strategy has been fraught with chaos and bad decision-making. Is it better to have experience making bad deals than it is to come in with fresh ideas?
That’s the decision the voters will have to make when we move into crunch time. Until then, Republican primary voters will have a plethora of candidates to choose from. And with Walker now joining the fray, the outcome is as uncertain as ever.