The Effects of Walker’s Victory Shouldn’t Be Overstated
James Pinkerton’s assessment of the Wisconsin recall result includes a number of interesting observations, but I don’t find this part all that persuasive:
Walker will inevitably be mentioned now as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, and no matter what happens in this November’s national election — and GOP prospects have improved dramatically in the wake of this victory — the Badger Stater will be rated as a future presidential prospect.
It’s certainly true that Walker is already being mentioned by some Republicans as a possible running mate for Romney, but that is a low threshold to clear when there has been occasional VP speculation about everyone from Rob Portman to Allen West. If the pattern of recent months holds, the more movement conservative enthusiasm there is for a politician the less likely it is that he is qualified to be the VP nominee. Few politicians have been the subject of more VP speculation than Rubio and Ryan, but neither of them is likely to make the final cut.
Until this week, no one paid Walker any attention as a possible running mate, and even now it doesn’t make much sense to recommend him for the position. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t quite understand how escaping total political humiliation is a recommendation for higher office. Walker seems to have benefited from the overreach of his opponents, which drove enough voters to support him because of their opposition to using the recall measure in this fashion. It is often a mistake to find an ideological or political mandate in an election decided by non-ideological voters. These voters aren’t judging the candidates the same way that ideological voters and pundits do, and sometimes they aren’t voting for a candidate for the reasons that we assume they are.
Have Romney’s prospects in November “improved dramatically” because of Walker’s victory? The result may give Romney a little boost, but it may not translate into any additional support for Romney, and outside of Wisconsin I don’t see how it could have much of an effect on Republican prospects in the presidential race. Are Republican Congressional candidates helped by Walker’s success? It’s possible, but I’m not sure how this would work. It can’t hurt Romney or Congressional Republicans. I suppose it could encourage conservative activists to work harder and it might demoralize progressive activists as the general election approaches, but it could have the opposite effect of making Republicans complacent and sparking increased activism from Democrats.
Walker’s political future is very difficult to predict with any accuracy, since I suspect his future success hinges on several things that haven’t happened yet. If he is implicated in the investigation that has already targeted some of his aides, his state and national political career will be over. If he survives the investigation without facing any charges, he survives politically, but his chances as a national political figure probably depend on whether he seeks and wins re-election in two more years. 2016 is a long way off, and too many things can go wrong for Walker to expect him to be among the Republican presidential candidates in the next cycle.