Elections

Why has Scott Walker fallen so far?

Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a town hall meeting Monday in Las Vegas.
Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a town hall meeting Monday in Las Vegas. AP

Scott Walker heads for Wednesday’s presidential debate having lost his summertime lead in Iowa and hovering around 2 percent in national polls.

Craig Robinson, editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, analyzed how the governor of Wisconsin went from the Iowa Republican frontrunner throughout the year to lost in the presidential pack.

“It used to be a big deal when Walker campaigned in the state, but now, not much attention is paid to him,” Robinson wrote.

Don’t blame Donald Trump, the front-runner who has stolen the spotlight from other better-known candidates. “Walker is now struggling is because of his own doing,” Robinson said. A Morning Consult poll released Tuesday had Walker in a tie for ninth place with 2 percent of the national Republican vote. In Iowa, a must-win state, he was at 3 percent in the August 27-Sept. 8 Quinnipiac University poll.

Walker keeps campaigning vigorously, and polls note that most voters have yet to finally decide on a candidate.

Monday, he proposed a series of steps aimed at labor unions in his “Power to the People” plan. Walker would bar federal workers from collectively bargaining, support a national right-to-work law and get rid of the National Labor Relations Board.

His Iowa fall, though, has been apparent for weeks, and Robinson offers his views as to why:

Unfortunately the pregame reports were accurate.”

Walker burst onto the national scene at January’s Iowa Freedom Summit. “Walker spoke with passion. He brought down the house. He was nothing like the candidate that some national reporters had warned us about before making his big debut,” Robinson recalled.

“Now that we have had the opportunity to watch Walker up close for months, his 2016 Iowa debut now looks to be an anomaly...Walker is struggling in a race that has put an emphasis on charisma and personality.”

Play to win. Managing expectations is for losers.”

“If there is a common mistake being made in Iowa this cycle, it’s that a number of campaigns have been too cautious in their Iowa strategies,” Robinson found.

He found the campaign “timid” as he was waiting to formally enter the race. “The official line was that Walker wanted to get his state’s budget hammered out before launching his candidacy, but there was also the straw poll, an early organizational contest that Walker’s campaign clearly didn’t want any part of.”

A principled conservative or a calculated politician?”

Walker got a strong reputation among conservatives for standing up to labor unions and Democrats. He survived a recall attempt. But throughout the summer, he has been uncertain, or changed his views, on some key issues, notably overhauling the immigration system.

“The problem for Walker is that his numerous pivots on issues and his refusals to take a position on certain issues make him appear to be a typical politician who makes political calculations instead of standing on long established principles,” Robinson said.”

An early missed opportunity.”

Robinson recalled a visit to Northeast Iowa where Walker was speaking. “Walker did fine, but as I watched the event I felt that Walker missed an opportunity to put these hard-core Republicans firmly in his column,” Robinson said.

“When it comes to Iowa’s social conservatives and evangelical voters, I think candidates either speak their language or they don’t. As I watched Walker in Northwest Iowa, it was clear to me that he was never going to be the candidate of the religious conservatives because he doesn’t speak their language and never made a play to communicate that he would be a champion,” Robinson said.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

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