Walker Gets In Touch With His Inner Amateur and His Inner Wonk

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It’s been pretty obvious from the get-go that Scott Walker’s path to the Republican nomination involved becoming the “electable conservative alternative” to Jeb Bush with momentum from a win in Iowa, and then convincing the Party Establishment he was acceptable to them as well even as Bush and Rubio and Kasich killed each other off. Until very recently his biggest challenge seemed to be maintain that establishment respectability by showing he wasn’t a complete idiot on foreign policy and generally playing it safe on policy.

Then Donald Trump and Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina all surged in the polls, in no small part at Walker’s expense, so in a predictable fallback the Wisconsin governor is going all anti-Washington, as National Journal‘s Shane Goldmacher reports from Iowa:

Scott Walker arrived here in familiar Iowa in an unfamiliar place: dislodged from first place for the first time in months by the surging Donald Trump.

But the Wisconsin governor has a plan to close the gap: attacking his fellow Republicans, just not Trump or the 15 others running for president. Instead, Walker is taking aim at Mitch McConnell and the beleaguered congressional Republican leadership in an effort to tap into the same anti-establishment, anti-Washington and anti-politician anger that has fueled the rise of Trump in Iowa and nationwide….

“I think it’s a protest,” Walker said after a campaign stop Monday of recent polling…. “I think what’s happened is people have so had it with Washington they’re sending a message and they’re picking, at least right now in the polls, they’re picking people who’ve never held office before to send that kind of message.”

And so Walker has refreshed his stump speech with a new and prominent broadside against the Republican-controlled Congress in hopes of better appealing to those disgruntled voters. “I’ve talked about what I’m for. I think the people still want to hear that. But I think they want to know….that we share their frustration,” Walker said of the addition.

Walker trotted out his newest line minutes into his soapbox speech at the state fair.

“They told us during the last election that if we just elected a Republican Senate, the leadership out there would put a bill to repeal Obamacare on the desk of the president,” Walker said. “It’s August — we’re still waiting for that measure.”

He had said much the same earlier on Monday on Glenn Beck’s popular show. And he repeated a version of it later in Webster City and again at a Pizza Ranch in Clarion, using it to open his remarks. On Tuesday, Walker plans to repeat it in a speech in Minnesota as he presents his plan to repeal the health care law.

Interestingly enough, though, said plan, faccording to conservative health policy expert Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner, follows the “pragmatist” route of maintaining much of Obamacare, or at least minimizing the number of people who will have a large, abrupt and immediate loss of insurance. He’s exposed himself to RINO Squish charges from the likes of Bobby Jindal, whose own health plan is based on a rejection of the very idea of universal health coverage.

So Walker seems to be proceeding crabwise, addressing his weaknesses in what might appear to be contradictory ways: bellowing at Washington’s betrayals of The Cause (Mitch McConnell won’t mind; he’s used to it) even as he tries to show he’s listening to the wonks on complex issues (other than, at the moment at least, immigration). It’s a hard act to pull off.

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.