In a National Journal story, an adviser to Scott Walker openly boasts that Walker is going to flip-flop if he's the Republican presidential nominee next year:
... according to Walker allies, he's going to pursue exactly the opposite strategy Romney used in 2012. Whereas Romney started in the middle and moved rightward throughout primary season, Walker is starting on the right and will shift toward the middle.
"You start in Iowa and lock up conservatives, because if you don't do that, none of the rest matters," said one longtime Walker adviser, who requested anonymity to discuss campaign strategy. "It's much easier to move from being a conservative to being a middle-of-the-road moderate later on."
The adviser added: "In Iowa, you see the beginnings of that. He's capturing that conservative wing first and foremost, and then moving from Iowa to the other states and bringing other voters into the fold."
But that doesn't mean he'd govern from the center -- as the NJ story makes clear, Walker is known to fake centrism come general election time, only to revert to hardcore conservatism once the ballots have been counted:
"I'm pro-life," Scott Walker said, looking directly into the camera. "But there's no doubt in my mind the decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy is an agonizing one. That's why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor."
That was last October, less than a month before Election Day, when the Wisconsin governor was locked in a tight reelection battle with Democrat Mary Burke. Her allies were attacking Walker for signing a bill that required women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. He responded with this memorable 30-second ad, part of an ongoing effort to soften Walker's image in the eyes of on-the-fence voters. In deeply polarized Wisconsin, they would decide the race. Exit polling shows they broke to him: Walker beat Burke among independents by 11 points en route to winning a second term.↓ Story continues below ↓
Walker will announce Monday that he's running for president. And dovetailing with the campaign launch will be a ceremony in which the governor signs into law a 20-week abortion ban that makes no exception for rape or incest. This hard-line stance on abortion, juxtaposed against the tone he struck on the issue last fall, provides a window into Walker's political style and helps explain how he got to this point.
... Walker has mastered the art of governing in a manner that mobilizes the party faithful while campaigning in a way that doesn't scare off moderates, independents, and even some Democrats. This misdirection has been the source of much of Walker's political success.
I keep telling you that the Republicans might win in 2016, in part because top-tier mainstream journalists loathe Hillary Clinton (and don't have much respect for Bernie Sanders, if you think he'll pull off a primary upset). I keep thinking that 2016 might be a rerun of 2000, when a Democrat the press didn't like tried to win a third presidential term for the party and was sabotaged by the media, which developed a mancrush on his Republican opponent.
I still think this could happen. But I don't think it could happen with Scott Walker. I think Walker will try to lull the press into thinking he's a moderate, and I think the press would like to be lulled into thinking the GOP nominee is a moderate, but I don't think Walker can pull it off.
But it won't be for a good reason. It'll be because the press thinks Walker is an unsexy stupid hick.
Look, I have an Ivy League sheepskin, but my parents never got past high school. I don't think people who have degrees from elite colleges have a monopoly on wisdom or truth. To some extent, it makes me cringe when the elite media harps on Walker's status as a college dropout. (New York Times headline yesterday: "Scott Walker, Viewed as ‘Authentic,’ Aims for ‘Smart’ in the 2016 Race.")
But that's a big part of the reason mainstream journalists won't respond to Walker the way they responded to George W. Bush in the 2000 campaign, Bush, unlike Walker, was a product of elite schools, which matters to the press. (Why do you think the MSM still respects Bobby Jindal, and keeps trying to give Dartmouth grad Dinesh D'Souza a do-over?)
A related problem? Walker is boring. This is Walker on social media:
See also his collected tweets about eating hot ham.
Being boring has been part of Walker's strategy in Wisconsin, and I imagine it works beautifully there -- he comes off as the goofy, sexless dad who bargain-shops at Kohl's, and just enough voters overlook the nasty extremism of his agenda. Well, the national press would like to back a Regular Guy, but they don't want a low-T dad -- they want a bro. George W. Bush was a bro. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and JFK were brainy bros (an ideal combination!). The other GOP front-runners have a lot more bro in them than Walker does. (Yes, Trump included, in his odd Christie-on-crack fashion.)
The press should expose Walker's deceptive centrism in a general election campaign because the press cares deeply about the truth -- but I think the reason he won't be able to get way with it is that the press won't root for him. I'll take it, though, if that's how things work out.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog