July 3, 2015

The donor class just sent a memo about Scott Walker to Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times. Haberman and Martin got the Times to publish it virtually unedited:

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin spent months persuading influential Republicans that he alone had the impressive conservative achievements and mainstream American appeal needed to not only win the party’s nomination but also to recapture the White House....

Now a growing number of party leaders say Mr. Walker is raising questions about his authenticity and may be jeopardizing his prospects in states where voters’ sensibilities are more moderate.

His response to the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage most emphatically demonstrated his sharp shift to the right: Mr. Walker called the court’s ruling “a grave mistake” and reiterated his call for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban same-sex marriage....

After Mr. Walker moved to support Iowa’s prized ethanol subsidies, abandoned his support for an immigration overhaul and spoke out against the Common Core national education standards, his pointed tone on marriage caused some Republicans to ask publicly whether he is too willing to modify his views to aid his ambitions.

If you read between the lines, it's obvious that flip-flopping is not what's bothering "some Republicans" -- it's the deviations from what the donor class considers Correct Thinking:

The [ethanol] reversal was not well received in the political network led by the industrialists David H. and Charles G. Koch, according to a Republican aware of the reaction who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitivities over the group’s deliberations.

But [Walker's] stance on marriage is what has disquieted people who had counted on Mr. Walker taking a more restrained approach to the culture wars.

For several months, according to four people briefed on the discussions who were not authorized to describe an off-the-record meeting, Republican donors who were advocates for legalizing same-sex marriage had worked quietly to try to build bridges to Mr. Walker....

Yeah, they want a guy who won't make a fuss about marriage.

Further into the article, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, who supports immigration reform, assures us that Walker probably isn'treally a hard-liner on immigration, despite his recent tough talk -- but based on Walker's words, that's another issue on which he and the fat cats are now at odds.

Meanwhile, Crooks & Liars quotes Chris Matthews, who's probably also parroting the GOP Establishment line:

During a segment on Hardball Wednesday, Chris Matthews ran a series of right-wing freakout statements about President Obama's decision to reopen the embassy in Cuba.... Scott Walker's was crafted for the warmongering nativist right wing.

"President Obama’s decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy there is yet another example of his appeasement of dictators," Walker wrote.

Why this would shock Tweety, I will never know, but it did.

"I'm starting to lose faith in Scott Walker as a reasonable person," Tweety lamented. "He's aping the right wing."

That, I guess, was Walker's rep in the Beltway: He's "a reasonable person," by the Establishment's definition of that term (i.e., merciless on taxes and unionization, but not conservative in any way that threatens business interests).

The Times article is a horse's head in Walker's bed -- a warning that the cash isn't going to flow as freely as he'd like unless he falls into line with the wishes of the fat-cat community.

But what Walker is doing is understandable: He's staking a lot on Iowa, and while he still leads there, his lead is slipping; nationwide, he's now in the second tier. The guy who's gaining right now, Donald Trump,isn't exactly doing it by being sober and moderate.

However, I wonder if the rise of Trump makes the Enraged Conservative lane a bit too crowded, to Walker's detriment. Walker's already competing with Cruz, Paul, and Huckabee in the Angry Refusenik lane. (I'm not going to distinguish between angry social conservatives, angry occasionally neo-Confederate semi-libertarians, and angry ad hoc blowhards, because they're all trying to channel roughly the same Fox/talk radio anger.)

But the donors thought Walker could bring those furious voters alongand run as an Establishment guy. If he's choosing not to run as that sort of hybrid, and if the Establishment stops giving him quite so much money, it's going to a very easy race for Jeb Bush in the Not Completely Crazy lane.

Marco Rubio is struggling. Chris Christie is not going to make a comeback. John Kasich probably has more fans at the Aspen Ideas Festival than in the New Hampshire and Iowa electorates combined.

So if Walker keeps trying to sound like Trump (and Cruz and Huckabee), he might cede all the not-quite-crazy voters to Jeb, and that might be enough for Jeb to win. But we'll see.

(crossposted at No More Mister Nice Blog)

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