Monday, September 21, 2015

The Long Walk(er)

And Now Outta The Campaign

Walker is officially out:
Mr. Walker’s intended withdrawal is a humiliating climb down for a Republican governor once seen as all but politically invincible. He started the year at the top of the polls but has seen his position gradually deteriorate, amid the rise of Donald J. Trump’s populist campaign and repeated missteps by Mr. Walker himself.
Here are the hot-takes:
This is where he was supposed to be tonight:
:: SNIFF ::

Indeed, Walker goes down with about 26 million in super-pac's money. What happens to it isn't clear. Donors can get their money back--or it could be used to back another candidate. Which one? Probably? Yeah: Rubio.

Rubio vs. Jeb: It's On

The exit of Walker means that one of the maybe 4 top-tier guys is gone. The remaining three are Rubio, Jeb, and Ted Cruz or Kaisch. If Kaisch continues to climb, he might overtake someone--but right now he's polling 2.3%.  Matt Yglesias of Vox plays devil's advocate and says what everyone is thinking: Jeb should drop out for the good of the party. The argument is straightforward:
  1. Rubio is exactly like Jeb--except good at politics.
  2. The conventional candidates (he includes Christie and Jindal) split the conventional vote (although to be honest, Christie and Jindal are not splitting much of anything right now).
Walker himself was holding a measly 1.8 polling points in the RCP average at last check--so it's not like him getting out throws the voters to Rubio in some kind of landslide (Rubio pulls a 7.3--a half point behind Bush and about a point ahead of Cruz). On the other hand, the dynamic changes. Walker leaving means that even well funded guys are now looking over their shoulders. Donors are seeing that just giving someone 26MM doesn't mean they'll have staying power.

Walker reminds us (these candidates) of our mortality in a way that Rick Perry did not.

Next To Fall?

If The Omnivore had to guess, he would pick the bottom of the pack. The Pataki's, the Jindals--those guys. In the top-slots? Chris Christie? Probably.

What About Trump, Carson, and Fiorina?

Trump might already be declining (we don't know yet--he's taken a hit--but does he have a floor? It's unclear). Carson is also declining--this is more meaningful since, as Ross Douthat notes, Carson's campaign is pretty empty--even moreso than Trump's. If he isn't electrifying the evangelicals or the outsiders-but-not-Trumps, he doesn't have much. Carly Fiorina is a real candidate with real positions. She may have staying power but right now she's in 6th and it's not exactly clear who she cannibalizes support from (it appears Carson, Trump, and Walker--but she seems too conventional to get that much more out of Carson and Trump--Jeb was unchanged after the debate, for example).

What Now?

The key takeaway from the fall of Walker is this: guys who looked like the chosen ones to unite the Tea Party and the Establishment have, twice--well, two and a half times (since you count Perry for 1.5), been a disaster. The idea of a sane, smart, Tea Party governor seems elusive--out of reach. Whether this is something endemic to the positions (Perry succeeded in a very good local economy, Walker was able to pull off some good moves with an electorate that favored him) or just bad luck, we don't know.

We do know that the remaining candidates are substantially more polarized: Cruz is a real politician--but he is seriously disliked by the establishment and is looking for a shutdown that will make him less popular. If Trump were to vanish (and Carson simply isn't electable) Cruz would still be vulnerable to things that mere mortal politicians are: the party establishment influencing the donor-class. In other words, without a Walker (or a Perry), the conservative wing of the party doesn't have a lot to go on. 

This should make the decisions about who to back even more critical and fraught. Walker's exit doesn't just kill his candidacy--it kills the dream of a great-white-hope uniter (and, let's be real, there's no one in the race whiter than Walker).
It's A Nice Day For A White Walker :: Rockin' Guitar Solo ::

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