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Eye On Candidates
August 18, 2015

Walker Aims to Get Back on Top of Field

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been at or near the top of the polls for the Republican nomination since the beginning of the race, but he has seen his numbers slip in recent weeks. After leading in Iowa, for example, he now trails businessman Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, according to a poll last week from CNN. Another CNN poll released yesterday shows him falling to fifth nationally

In reaction, Walker’s campaign is planning its return to the top of the field, according to multiple press accounts. From National Journal:

How Scott Walker Plans to Win Back Donald Trump Supporters

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….

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’s effort to woo Trump voters, and those supporting other anti-establishment candidates, extends to suggesting there’s plenty of similarities in their agendas, at least on the hot-button topic of immigration, according to a Politico article:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sees some similarities between his policy proposals on immigration reform and the immigration reform blueprint real estate mogul Donald Trump laid out on Sunday….

“Well it’s similar to what I brought up about four or five months ago. In fact earlier in the year I was on Fox News Sunday and laid out what I thought we should do which is secure the border which means build the wall, have the technology, have the personnel to make sure it’s safe and secure,” Walker said. “Enforce the law, which I’ve said for some time means enforcing the law, making sure we don’t have sanctuary cities and that people are here legally. And I’ve said no amnesty.”

Walker’s team is probably also hoping his response to protesters who interrupted his speech at the Iowa State Fair will remind voters that he is the same governor who fought public sector unions in Wisconsin and won, as described by Bloomberg Politics:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker outlasted the angry protest that surrounded the start of his Iowa State Fair visit on Monday, ending his tour with a pork chop in one hand and a beer in the other….

The pork and beer made for good pictures, but it was the protesters at the Des Moines Register's political soapbox that made Walker's day.

When several started shouting and holding up signs near the base of the stage where he stood, Walker unleashed a line he'd almost certainly prepared in advance.

"I am not intimidated by you, sir, or anyone else out there," he shouted at one protester near the stage….

Walker's confrontations with public employee unions in his home state have galvanized labor opposition against him and created something of a rolling protest movement that follows him. The Iowa fair was no exception. But, as Walker's demeanor demonstrated, the protests also allow him to burnish his conservative credentials with the Republican base….

It was among the most dramatic political moments yet on the fairgrounds since Thursday, when the fair opened and presidential candidates started arriving in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. For the motorcycle-riding Walker, it was also a moment to show his political macho….

In another sign the Walker campaign is looking for ways to regain its previous standing, The New York Times reports the campaign has reached out to a potential strategist to help guide the effort:

A consultant to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin’s presidential campaign telephoned a Georgia-based Republican strategist last week to sound him out about working for Mr. Walker, a sign that he is considering staff changes at a moment when his campaign has been eclipsed by Donald J. Trump.

Mike McElwain, a partner at the media consulting firm that Mr. Walker has retained, called the strategist, Scott Rials, to ask whether he was available to move to Madison, Wis., to join the campaign.

“It was more of a, ‘would you be interested call,’” said Mr. Rials, who worked for Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry in the 2012 campaign. “It wasn’t clear what exactly the job was.” He stressed that no formal offer was presented.

According to the Times, Rials said he wouldn’t be able to move to Wisconsin. But the possible search for a campaign strategist would mark something of a departure for Walker, who has long acted as his own strategist:

Through his rise in Wisconsin politics, Mr. Walker has acted as his own chief strategist, devising his own TV commercials and press tactics. He had a small network of state-based advisers around him, but they have gone to work for his “super PAC” or have not been involved in the early months of his presidential run.

Walker’s recent fall should be of concern to his supporters, but he remains in the top tier of candidates, just at the bottom of that tier rather than the top. Fixing campaign problems in August is vastly preferable to fixing them in December, and it appears the Walker campaign is reacting swiftly and decisively to correct now what it believes are its current shortcomings. Whether other campaigns also retool in response to the current campaign dynamics could determine which of them even make it to the Iowa caucuses in February 2016.