Politico‘s James Hohmann has penned an insider-y piece about the supposed 2016 presidential strategy of WI Gov. Scott Walker, who generally makes the second tier of potential candidates in early handicapping for ’16. Here’s the big reveal:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s game plan for the next three years is quietly taking shape: Win reelection next year in this purple state without moderating a record that has won many hearts in the conservative base; let the other GOP hopefuls get sullied by the mud pit of Congress and each other; then pounce in 2015.

Hohmann mentions in passing Walker’s physical proximity to Iowa (and the seven years he spent there during childhood), and quotes IA Gov. Terry Brandstad saying nice things about him. In this as in other respects Walker’s positioning would appear to resemble that of 2012 candidate Tim Pawlenty–the electable conservative with a record not confined to bloviating in Congress.

The comparison may surprise some readers who think of T-Paw as fatally nice (the guy who couldn’t bring himself to repeat his potentially effective “Obamneycare” quip during the early candidate debates, and who folded his tent quickly at the first adverse event) or of Walker as a nasty piece of work. But in the Republican “base,” Walker’s nasty streak, and the rage his name evokes among Democrats, are obviously assets. Walker also has to get through a re-election campaign (T-Paw had already retired from the governorship after two terms) in which, as Hohmann notes, he does not have the option of “moving to the center,” not that anyone would much believe it if he did.

So if Walker is re-elected with his right-wing street cred intact, he’d be sort of “Pawlenty Heavy” rather than Lite, which might be just what was missing in the Minnesotan’s campaign.

One tidbit Hohmann mentions that is worth remembering is that Walker’s at work on the obligatory pre-presidential-campaign book, with Marc Thiessen as his ghost. Since Walker’s never served in Congress or any other national office, it will be expected that his book will, like Mitt Romney’s going into 2012, dwell heavily on international issues. So it’s interesting he chose Thiessen, whose former bosses included Jesse Helms and Donald Rumsfeld as well as George W. Bush, and who is probably best known as an apologist (if that’s not too passive a word for his enthusiasm) for torture. So it’s reasonable to expect that Scott Walker will come out snarling in his big foreign policy/national security debut. I don’t know if that’s what his main sponsors the Brother Koch will prefer, but with Rand Paul likely to dominate the paleoconservative camp, it’s probably not a bad stratagem for a candidate who otherwise has everything Chris Christie has (from a conservative point of view) other than natural eloquence and a history of treating the President of the United States with respect.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.