Scott Walker’s Apocalypse Gap

Asked to write about Scott Walker’s demise in my weekly TPMCafe column, I quoted from two intelligent takes on the governor’s problems–one actually written in 2014 by Alec MacGillis, and another written just this week by Nate Silver–and then expanded on my own theory that Walker’s whole act diminished in its impact as the nomination contest grew more apocalyptic. So in a relatively short period of time Iowa conservatives who initially thrilled to Walker’s tale of how he destroyed Wisconsin public sector unions and then was triumphantly re-elected became absorbed in much bigger struggles with the godless baby-killers of Planned Parenthood and the criminal immigrants pouring over our open borders and Barack Obama’s alliance with the Ayatollahs and so on and so forth.

Eventually, and certainly fed by Walker’s inability to come up with a new and interesting rap, he probably started sounding like a local blowhard telling self-aggrandizing fish stories. And so his poll numbers quickly plummeted and so did his donations, and a second poor debate performance, in which he did not even mention his shiny new national union-bashing proposal, did him in.

The political morgue-keepers are focused presently on inside-baseball accounts about the Walker campaign’s finances and personalities and who did what to whom and who might have kept the candidacy limping along until Caucus Night. But I suspect Walker himself figured out he had already missed his big chance, in part because he (like a lot of people) misjudged his party and thought “the base” wanted a respectable mix of experience and hatred baked into a rational electability argument. Turns out conservative appetites this cycle are for something a lot rawer.

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.