John Nichols Makes The Case for Scott Walker
Over at The Nation, John Nichols is ostensibly very concerned with Republicans’ well-being. He offers his counsel – free of charge – that the Republicans should be wary of putting Scott Walker on the ballot as their candidate in 2016. I can think of no better endorsement. Nichols’ fear of a Walker run should move him right to the top of the 2016 list.
Let’s look at his arguments and consider their merit. Nichols’ lead reason is that a majority of Wisconsinites don’t want Walker to run. Leaving aside that the poll he cites is from May 21st, and thus six months stale, why do the wishes of Wisconsinites (including Democrats) matter more than others when it comes to deciding whether Walker should be on the Republican ticket? It is a national election.
Reason number two, from Nichols, is that Walker hasn’t taken more than 53% of the vote in Wisconsin. But Wisconsin is a purple state, and Walker is fairly conservative. If he can pick up 53% of the vote in a purple state, imagine what he can do across the country. Furthermore, basic math says that if Walker can consistently win 52% or 53% of the electorate then he will win the Presidency. While I appreciate Nichols’ view that winning a higher percentage is better than winning a lower percentage, America is a fairly evenly divided country, in many respects, and nobody running for President is likely to have a blowout in terms of the overall percentage. It also might behoove Nichols to look up President Obama’s win percentages in the last two presidential elections, in 2008 it was 52.9% and in 2012 it was 51.1%. I’d say Walker is looking pretty good.
Nichols’ third argument is that Wisconsin is a swing state, but not a purple state. It is a bit of a head scratcher:
There is little reason to doubt that Walker will soon enter the formal hinting stage, go through the “exploratory” stage and start bidding for the Republican presidential nomination. Throughout the process, he will make grand pronouncements about his appeal in a supposedly “blue” state—glossing over the fact that Wisconsin is actually a classic swing state that sends a conservative Republican to the Senate along with a progressive Democrat, that backs Democrats for president but that often elects Republican governors and that polls suggest is more bitterly divided than any in the nation.
Nichols argument may be true, but I fail to see how it makes a difference vis-à-vis Walker as a candidate. If we assume a theoretical voter base of 40% Republican, 40% Democrat and 20% Independent, Walker achieves the same result by getting every Republican and 11% of the Independents as he does by getting 35% of the Republicans, 10% of the Independents and 6% of the Democrats.
Point number four is that Walker has not run and won in a Presidential election year when turnout is higher. Presumably, Nichols is arguing he would have lost had he done so. That may or may not be true, but it seems irrelevant with respect to Walker running for President. His national campaign is going to be affected by numerous factors, of which turnout is jut one.
Finally, having given us the benefit of his wisdom, Nichols leaves us with this:
Indeed, while it is unlikely that Scott Walker will actually be the Republican nominee for president, his selection by the GOP would in all likelihood produce another progressive moment in Wisconsin. Just as Paul Ryan’s addition to the 2012 Republican ticket failed to carry Wisconsin for the GOP, so polls have regularly suggested that a Scott Walker-led ticket would very probably fail to carry the state in the higher turnout presidential election of 2016.
With everything I know about John Nichols’ background and political disposition, I would think, based upon his analysis, that he would be cheering for Republicans to nominate Scott Walker. Clearly, he believes that Walker has no chance, and thus a Democratic victory would be assured if he was the nominee. How can I square this with his advice that “Republicans would be wise to consider the numbers…”?
I suspect John Nichols is not being entirely honest with me.