Scott Walker Lands a Big Fish

The “invisible primary” in each early presidential cycle is composed of quite a few separate dimensions, including money, activist group backing, elite support, public opinion standing, and early-state infrastructure. In this last venue, proto-candidate Scott Walker just landed a big fish, per this report from the Des Moines Register‘s Jennifer Jacobs:

The team that is building Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s political organization for a possible presidential campaign has brought on a GOP strategist with Iowa ties: David Polyansky.

Polyansky, a Texan who played senior roles in two Iowa presidential campaigns and was the top strategist in Republican Joni Ernst’s successful campaign for U.S. Senate this past fall, will be Team Walker’s senior adviser in Iowa, sources told The Des Moines Register Thursday….

Seven years ago, Polyansky helped orchestrate former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee’s victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, but for the 2016 cycle, he’s jumping on board with Walker, a pastor’s son known for winning three campaigns in four years in a blue state, and for confrontational government reforms….

Iowa has been a home-away-from-home for Polyansky for years. He was deputy campaign manager for Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann when she climbed to a surprise victory in the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll. And he was senior consultant to Ernst, who won a five-way GOP primary in June then defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley by 8.3 points in November to claim the U.S. Senate seat held for 30 years by a staunch liberal, Tom Harkin.

Jacobs’ account omits a few nuances. Polyansky was effectively Ed Rollins’ guy on the ground in both the Huckabee campaign and then in Bachmann’s. They were both pretty much pushed out of the latter after the Straw Poll win, though everybody half-pretended it was about Rollins’ health, at least until he went after Bachmann with hammer and tongs in mid-2012 for her attacks on Huma Abedin.

As for Ernst, Polyansky was reportedly present at the creation of the hog-castration theme that served as her signature in the Senate race, which is being regarded as a devilishly effective if self-consciously stupid model for future campaigns. So Walker’s now got someone who is very familiar with the mechanics of the Straw Poll (the first real contest of the 2016 cycle), knows all the players in the state’s peculiarly powerful Christian Right faction, and is close to the hottest political property in Iowa right now. We’ll soon see, beginning with his appearance tomorrow at Steve King’s “summit” in Des Moines, if Walker can catch fire with the very demanding wingnuts of Iowa.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.