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Walker: The Next Pawlenty?

It is no accident that the presidential candidate Walker most frequently calls to mind is Tim Pawlenty.
Scott Walker

Ed Kilgore speculates about a Scott Walker presidential bid:

He’s a conservative evangelical without being all that noisy about it. He’s from a state adjoining Iowa. He even has a plausible working theory of political change, suitable for Republicans worried about electability and follow-through, based on two premises: (a) swing voters respond better to resolute conservatism than to mushy moderation, and (b) what the country most needs is one-party government (his party, of course).

Walker has not, moreover, made any real enemies in the GOP.

Given this description, it is no accident that the presidential candidate Walker most frequently calls to mind is Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty was considered a “top-tier” presidential candidate from the start for similar reasons that Walker is being talked up as one now. Pawlenty was the re-elected governor of a traditionally blue state in the Midwest, he seemed to check all the right ideological boxes, and he hadn’t made any enemies among any of the major party factions. He was an evangelical, but wasn’t identified solely or primarily as a social issues candidate. And he was completely dull and unappealing when he campaigned for president.

As Kilgore mentions, Walker isn’t terribly charismatic, either. Andrew Prokop points to his wooden, unremarkable victory speech last week as proof of this, and also makes the Pawlenty comparison:

As many political commentators have pointed out, Walker faces a “Pawlenty problem.” That’s in reference to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who seemed on paper to be a perfectly good 2012 nominee for Republicans.

Now it’s possible that Walker won’t repeat Pawlenty’s mistakes, and he may very well take Pawlenty’s failed campaign as a cautionary tale in what not to do, but the similarities are nonetheless striking. Another similarity between the two is that enthusiasm for Walker seems to be concentrated among activists and pundits in Washington, while most rank-and-file Republicans have no idea who he is, and if they do most of them don’t support him. That’s not so surprising when more than half of the voters that turned out to vote in the gubernatorial election thought he wouldn’t make a good president. If some of the people that helped to re-elect him don’t see him in that role, is it likely that he will catch on elsewhere? Put me down as very skeptical.



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