Walker: Dizzy With Success?

Here’s an interesting theory of why Scott Walker’s struggled a bit to find his butt with both hands now and then on the early campaign trail: he’s (to borrow a term from Stalin’s about-face on forced industrialization of the Soviet Union in 1932) “dizzy with success.” That’s the take of Wisconsin political observer J.R. Ross–who should probably know–at Politico Magazine.

As Wisconsin insiders have watched the national scrutiny of Walker ramp up the last two months, there has been a common theme in discussions over his bumbling: Even he didn’t expect to be in this position so soon.

The original plan was a slow build up. Get state lawmakers to knock out of his budget earlier than they usually do, dip his toes in places like Iowa along the way and then fully engage once he signs the document in early summer.

But Walker’s speech at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Summit [sic: it was actually the Iowa Freedom Summit; the Faith and Freedom Coalition cattle call is on April 25] in late January changed all that. Wisconsin reporters and politicos have heard the governor give an impassioned speech in which he whipped up a partisan crowd with the kind of buildup one would expect from a preacher’s kid. They’d also heard a time or two his story about using so many coupons and other discounts while shopping at Kohl’s that the Wisconsin-based chain was “paying me to buy that shirt.”

Up to that point, the national media thought Walker was the second coming of Tim Pawlenty, a milquetoast Midwestern white guy who, while being a popular favorite son, would fail to evoke the national enthusiasm necessary for a serious presidential bid. That notion went out the door when Walker transfixed the Iowa crowd by recounting the graphic death threats he got after taking on public employee unions—including the one that memorably promised to gut his wife “like a deer.” When the media realized he had some fire in the belly, the fuse was suddenly lit on Walker’s meteoric media rise.

But he wasn’t ready, it seems. I guess you could actually add in the fact that every time he stumbled, his rivals made sure the whole world noticed, which we saw in the generally ridiculous and amazingly extended furor over Walker firing a contract staffer for disrespecting Iowa.

If this theory is correct, then at some point Walker should be able to catch up with himself and stop making unforced errors. If he doesn’t, then there’s always the possibility he will flame out early just like Pawlenty. At least then maybe he’ll stop tormenting the people of his own state with stunts aimed at impressing wingnuts in 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.