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Friends and Foes: Don't Underestimate Scott Walker

Friends and Foes: Don't Underestimate Scott Walker
(Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 13 July 2015 11:48 AM

As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker officially enters the race for the White House, both friends and foes of the Republican governor say the biggest mistake his opponents can make is to underestimate his ability to win. 

Walker has an impeccable winning record, with just two losses out of 14 ballot appearances since 1990. As he often likes to remind supporters, he also won three elections in four years as Wisconsin's governor, thanks to a recall election in 2012, making him the first governor to survive a recall.

According to Politico, the opponents who have been left in Walker's dust say that they have a grudging respect for the Wisconsin Republican.

They describe him as "a rare and exceptionally canny politician who’s constantly underestimated and always outperforms expectations," Politico reports.

Former opponents also say Walker is "a sneaky-smart campaigner," "a polished and level-headed tactician," and "a master at reading crowds."

A former aide to Mary Burke, the Democrat who challenged Walker's re-election bid for governor in 2014, speaking on anonymity to Politico, said, "There is a risk in underestimating him."

That warning, according to Politico, is "a common theme" among those who have lost to him.

"He’s got antennas," another Democratic senior adviser of a former opponent, who also requested anonymity, told Politico. "He’s the real deal. As time goes on, you’ll get more of that vibe as you cover him. He can come across as a little arrogant, obviously. But with real people out there, he’s really, really good. He’s just in touch with what they’re looking for."

Wisconsin state Sen. Lena Taylor, who ran against Walker for county executive in 2008, said that the Wisconsin governor was typically very polite even behind the scenes when they debated, adding that he's very "personable" no matter who he is speaking to.

"He’s comfortable with the person on the farm. He’s comfortable with the person in the boardroom," Taylor told Politico.

While she describes Walker as "polarizing" and "an extremist," she also warned her fellow Democrats that Walker doesn't make unforced errors.

"He is used to speaking and speaking publicly, so don’t expect him to be someone, who even when it’s not going well, to get off-kilter," she said. "He stumbles, we all do. But he’s a guy who’s going to be more even-toned. Use that to your advantage, Mrs. Clinton."

Rep. Gwen Moore, who is one of the only candidates to ever defeat Walker, recommends that Democrats try to get him to say things that are insensitive, although Politico notes that that strategy didn't help Burke.

"He’s been very successful, but he’s going to have a hard time beating a woman that’s tough," Moore told Politico. "She needs to be prepared for someone who doesn’t care who he maims, cripples or kills for his ambition."

Republican Mary Jo Baas, who ran and lost against Walker in a five-way race for an empty assembly seat in 1993, reiterated the point made by others that, with each office he has run for, "people have continually underestimated him."

Baas told Politico that if she "had known how good he was," she "wouldn’t have run" against him.

"When he talked to a group of people, people felt like he was one of them. He knew what connected, what resonated," she said.

"I could summarize my advice for people running against him," she added. "Don’t."

Alan Greenblatt of Governing wrote in an opinion piece for Politico that Walker's political foes are part of what has made him "such a serious contender for the presidency."

In addition to winning elections, Walker also won a significant fight against the public employee unions when he stripped them of their collective bargaining rights,  Greenblatt writes, adding that it's a battle that both factions of the Republican Party can unite behind.

Greenblatt also argues that the governor of America's Dairyland might be the Republican presidential contender who can defeat not only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush but all the GOP candidates.

According to the Governing reporter, "a case can be made that Walker is the only candidate in the entire oversized field who is not just acceptable but fully embraceable by every faction within the party."

While some of the more conservative Republican candidates are betting on getting a boost from a win in Iowa, the more moderate candidates are looking to New Hampshire.

Walker has led in the polls in Iowa among the other 2016 Republican primary contenders since January, when he spoke at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

While Bush is leading in New Hampshire in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, the Wisconsin Republican is in third place in the Granite State, right behind billionaire Donald Trump.

"Walker is one of the few candidates who can compete in both places and is practically the only hard-right conservative who has gotten a good reception in New Hampshire so far," Greenblatt contends.

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As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker officially enters the race for the White House, both friends and foes of the Republican governor say the biggest mistake his opponents can make is to underestimate his ability to win.
Scott Walker, wisconsin, primaries, underestimate, president
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2015-48-13
Monday, 13 July 2015 11:48 AM
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