In the early analysis of the Republican presidential field, political observers argued that Scott Walker lacked the charisma to be an effective candidate and that like Tim Pawlenty, another Midwestern governor, the Wisconsin governor was simply too boring.
While noting that he possesses "the potential to have broad appeal throughout the Republican Party," Nate Cohn of The New York Times said Walker's weakness lies in the fact that "some question whether he has the charisma to distinguish himself" from his opponents in a crowded GOP field.
Walker "could end up like the former governor Tim Pawlenty, another Midwesterner, who was thought to be a strong challenger to Mr. Romney in 2012 but who ultimately failed to gain traction in Iowa," Cohn wrote in a Jan. 12 column
Said Pawlenty to Bloomberg
: "The people who say that probably haven’t spent a lot of time around me. My campaign was so brief there was no way to fairly judge that or label it that quickly.
"We didn’t really get a fair hearing because we had to take a knee so early."
Others have directly asked the question of whether a Midwesterner can get elected president.
"When's the last time we elected a Midwesterner President? Ford doesn't count. He wasn't elected. You have to go back to Eisenhower and, by the time we elected him, he wasn't just from Kansas anymore. He was from The World — The World War.
"And Kansas isn't even really the Midwest I think of as the Midwest. It's too far south. When's the last time we had a President from the North that is not the East?" wrote law professor and blogger Ann Althouse
Aaron Blake of The Washington Post
, who comes from the Midwest, said he "saw Pawlenty telling corny jokes and looking exceedingly Midwestern milquetoast in the 2012 campaign" and "wondered how he would excite anybody enough to assert himself as a front-runner."
But, he added, "one candidate is an exceedingly small sample size from which to draw broad conclusions. And there are plenty of reasons to believe Walker is different."
The questions about Walker's ability to energize an audience began to change after his Jan. 24 appearance at the Iowa Freedom Summit, at which he delivered a speech that vaulted him to the top of the most recent Des Moines Register poll
"King-a-palooza launched him. It's not that they like him, they love him," said Des Moines Register pollster J. Ann Selzer, who noted that 60 percent of caucus-goers said they had a favorable view and another 32 percent have a "very favorable" opinion.
"He completely destroyed that argument. He can be a real player in the caucuses" a veteran Iowa strategist who has not settled on a candidate tells CNN.
Even liberal writers agreed the Iowa speech helped to take the sting out of the boring label.
"With a single speech this past Sunday, Walker shook off the rap. Charisma doesn’t usually materialize years into a politician’s career; but if Walker happens to be a rare late bloomer, he’ll suffer no consequences for his earlier, jejune campaigning," wrote Brian Beutler of The New Republic
Beutler added that the Wisconsin governor "turned heads precisely because he upended the idea that he suffers from a fatal lack of personality."
On Wednesday, Walker himself waded into the "charisma" debate.
"I'd rather have bland or uncharismatic than dumb or ignorant, or corrupt or any of the other things that they could label other would-be candidates out there.
"Or old, for that matter," Walker said on the radio show hosted by Milwaukee-based conservative talk-radio host Charlie Sykes, according to CNN.
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