Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Walker Star Rising

Right now Scott Walker is "crushing it" in a Drudge Report poll involving over 300k Internet voters. Now, you can say a lot of things:

  1. It's it's an Internet poll. Who cares?
  2. It's Drudge! Who cares? It's Internet-tabloid news!
  3. It's too far until the 2016 elections--who cares?
  4. What's Drudge?
The fact is, despite all of that, this is important and significant. It matters. Why?

The Drudge Report
The Drudge Report, run by Matt Drudge, is a news-aggregator website that premiered as an email list in 1996 and has grown in popularity ever since. It is unabashedly Republican leaning, sensationalistic, and doesn't especially fact-check hot news stories. It's also immensely popular, widely read, and, well, very important. What gets promoted on Drudge report is material to campaigns (Romney's campaign manager was friendly with Matt Drudge so it is considered to have helped him greatly in 2012). The Drudge effect is now stronger than ever.

The Drudge Report, simply put, is both the vein and the needle to mainline information to the Republican Base. It's significant to both candidates and voters.

The Poll
There are a few things to note here. Firstly, the spread of candidates doing well is, shall we say, indicative. That Rubio can pull a third means that the voting demographic has forgiven him enough for his Gang-of-Eight (Ocho!) amnesty proposal that he's not entirely finished. On the other hand, beyond the governors (Perry, Rubio, Walker) everyone else in the segment taken is a non-starter. The current results go Walker 46, Cruz 14, Paul 12, Carson 8. Jeb pull even with Sarah Palin at 4%.

Now, these results are nowhere near realistic: Rubio would have a chance in the general, Paul probably not. Jeb could probably win a general election if the base turned out as they did for Romney. Sarah Palin? No.

On the other hand the massive gulf between Cruz (No) and Walker means that most of the Drudge voters are both unified and realistic. A 32-point lead is not quite what Hillary enjoys with the Democrats but it's close enough for these purposes.

In other words, right now, with the high-turn-out GOP voting base, they've made a sane (governor) and unified choice.

What Happens Next?
Walker has brought on the requisite talent and he gave a blockbuster I-do-so-have-charisma speech at the Iowa cattle-call. In short, he has done everything he needs to in order to align things for his next challenge: big-donor support. The Drudge poll should lock that in.

In short order he will be the front-runner with the momentum and scrutiny that confers. It also means he will be vulnerable to opposition attacks both from the Democrats and from his other competitors. This, if anything will stop him, will be the problem. Breaking away too soon means that there will be plenty of lead-time available for people trying to dig up dirt on him, calibrate attack ads, and pour money into negative connotations ahead of his name-recognition score. He has yet to "nationally introduce himself" and his opponents are going to try to do that 'for him.'

It also means that Jeb Bush will need to decide if he really wants this or not. Of the other potentials, only Perry is likely to have sufficient ammunition to start a truly damaging war this early in the game. Romney would've--but he's out. Rubio might be able to get donors--but it's unclear: if it looks like Walker's a winner, Rubio will likely see his support dry up faster than Perry's (Texas money) or Bush (the Bush network). 

There is also the possibility that someone like Carson or Huckabee might do a kamakazi blitz attack early on--but it seems more likely they'd just bow out.

We haven't seen Walker debate on the national stage yet--but there's no reason to think he'll be a pushover. He's almost certainly boning up on foreign policy right now and he'll have plenty of time to get it straight. He's also not especially gaffe prone and seems to have a decent nose for avoiding no-win social issues.

He has performed some misssteps on immigration (that is: he's said he's okay with finding some way for people here to stay) but he probably has enough good-will built up that he can afford a few 'evolutions' on these issues.

So Walker is unlikely to be done in by his own hand (the circling scandal-vultures seem unlikely to draw any real blood at this point). If someone is going to stop him in the primaries, it's probably going to have to be Bush--and it's going to have to be soon.

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