Smarter Horse-Race Analysis, Please

It’s too early for real horse-race coverage (i.e., who’s “winning” or “losing” contests that won’t occur for quite a few months) of the 2016 presidential nominating contest, though not too early to consider the emerging strategies of various candidates. So I don’t mind the subject of a Zeke Miller post on Scott Walker’s comments on his alleged national strength–just the use Miller puts them too.

Here’s what Walker said in an interview with Laura Ingraham:

“If we chose to get in, I don’t think there’s a state out there we wouldn’t play in, other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are,” Walker said, suggesting that the expensive contest could equalize the money gap between himself and the better-funded Bush.

“Some of the polls essentially tied and they’re going to eat up a good amount of that financial advantage that Gov. Bush is going to have,” he added, noting that incumbent Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign spent about $100 million in 2014. “A good chunk of that will be going up to the Florida primary.”

Here’s what Miller had to say about it:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hasn’t even officially declared his presidential candidacy but he’s already considering sitting out at least one state….

Just months ago Walker was referring to himself as the race’s front-runner. Asked about being signaled out by President Obama in a recent speech, Walker said, “Well, it suggests maybe we’re the frontrunner.”

Oh good God. Of course Walker would sit out a winner-take-all primary in a state that’s the home base for two (technically four, since Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson also live there now) key rivals. He even notes an additional rationale beyond the likelihood that playing there would likely be for naught: it’s a state with many media markets where he hopes Jeb and Marco will dump huge quantities of money they won’t be able to spend elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with Walker’s comments, and it has nothing to do with whether he is or isn’t the “front-runner,” whatever the hell that means right now.

I guess at this point I should make it clear I really, really do not like Scott Walker and his hammer-head shark approach to politics and policy. But lately I find myself repeatedly defending him (or more strictly his presidential prospects) from really lame horse-race analysis, like the idea that he’s peaked too soon, or that he’s in a “crisis” because Tony Perkins doesn’t like him, or that he’s lost an imaginary front-runner status by saying he wouldn’t do something stupid like enter a winner-take-all primary in Florida.

Believe me, when Scott Walker does do something disastrous, and if and when his presidential campaign goes down the tubes, I’ll be there with a big bouquet of fresh schadenfreude. But let’s don’t just imagine it, nice as that would be.

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.