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OPINION - Walker, his book, and his upcoming campaign

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  He’s running. Scott Walker is going to make a bid for the White House. In reviewing his book, I can't draw any other conclusion. This is the kind of book someone puts out to introduce themselves on the national stage.

If you ask the GOP base in, say, Kansas what they know about Scott Walker, they’ll probably say something like “he stood up to the big state unions.” That actually works to Walker’s advantage. Most voters outside of Wisconsin know only a tiny morsel about him. He’s the almost-blank-slate conservative. And that puts him in a better place than other possible candidates who might seek the Republican nomination. Marco Rubio? That immigration compromise he floated looks too much like amnesty. Chris Christie? He may not be conservative enough; he may not have the temperament; and that arm-around-Obama after Hurricane Sandy hurts. Paul Ryan? Looks too much like a loser after being Romney’s running mate. Ted Cruz? Rand Paul? They have long voting records now, and may be too divisive.

Walker looks like the candidate with the fewest negatives – and that’s a great starting point. He’s managed his governorship so that all possibilities are open to him.

But when you're a blank slate, the challenge is to define yourself before you’re defined by your opponents.

What might the pitfalls of a Walker-for-president campaign?

First, all of the John Doe investigations will be dredged up… not just by prosecutors but by the national press. The Washington-media will treat John Doe 1.0 as a new story; it will be new to them. President Bush's experience during his second campaign is instructive, where a faked memo about his Air National Guard service became a top-of-the-newscast story for CBS news. There will be innuendo and outright lies. We’re already heard them: liberal talk show host Ed Shultz claimed to have reliable sources that Walker was days away from being indicted. Scott Walker will have to make it clear that this investigation started because he blew the whistle on staff members who were stealing from a special fund for veterans. Walker hasn’t always done a good job explaining what the case is all about. John Doe 2.0, still ongoing, is a complete wildcard.

Next, Walker will have to surround himself with better people. A campaign for the White House needs to be a well-oiled, finely tuned machine. Sometimes the governor's staff doesn’t rise to the occasion. Remember the case where a fake phone call got through to Walker claiming to be one of the Koch brothers? That could be lethal to a presidential campaign. Things like that cannot happen… ever. Scott Walker needs to be prepared to cut ties to people around him who aren’t up to the job.

I think Governor Walker will also have to manage his lack of a college degree. If, hypothetically, he were to be running against Barack Obama we’d hear repeatedly that one candidate is Harvard educated. Walker would be referred to as a drop-out.

Lastly, Scott Walker’s candidacy may ultimately be good for the country, but not good for Wisconsin. We would have a part-time governor. The agenda that Walker’s worked for in our state would take a back-seat to his candidacy. Visits to battleground states would take precedence over the workings of government here. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Walker resigning his office if it was in the best interest of his ultimate goal.

Walker is running, until there’s a compelling reason for him not to. Don’t believe me? Read his book, and you’ll change your mind.

Chris Conley
11.27.13