Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced Monday that he is running for President of the United States. With Walker's announcement, the Republican field of Presidential contenders is expected to include 17 major candidates by summer's end. Consensus among political insiders is that three of those 17 candidates have both a clear shot at winning the nomination and being competitive in a general election matchup with Hillary Clinton.
Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Walker have been dubbed the three candidates to watch in the coming months. Although Democrats salivate at the thought of facing an unelectable Republican like Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, they understand that Republicans are unlikely to actually nominate any of these fringe candidates. When considering the three men that they're most likely to face in a general election, it would appear that Walker would be easiest to beat.
Both Rubio and Bush both have clear advantages as candidates for the Republican Party. Bush ran the high population swing state of Florida for two terms and is clearly attempting to reach out to the crucial Latino voting bloc. As a matter of fact, a Bush victory in the general election would lead to the nation's first Latina First Lady, as Bush's wife Columba Bush is Mexican American. Marco Rubio, who also hails from the all-important swing state of Florida, is himself a Latino American, in addition to being young and telegenic.
Facing either of these candidates in the general election would present Democrats with the challenge of having Florida virtually locked in for Republicans, while Latinos in other swing states like Nevada, Colorado and Arizona seriously consider switching their votes to a Republican candidate in 2016. In 2012, only 27 percent of Latinos voted Republican, destroying the GOP's hopes of unseating President Obama.
Scott Walker by contrast, has none of these advantages. Walker hails from Wisconsin in the Midwest portion of the country. Although his candidacy would likely make his home state of Wisconsin competitive, he'd be far from a sure thing to win the light-blue state. Walker's electoral advantages as a candidate don't reach into any swing states with the exception of Iowa, which borders Wisconsin. Iowa is worth 6 electoral votes compared to Florida's 29. Another swing state where Walker has diminished potential compared to his two main competitors is Ohio.
Ohio is the second most populous swing state with 18 electoral votes and any Republican would be hard pressed to win the White House without both the Buckeye State and Florida in their column. Unfortunately for Walker, Ohio has powerful and politically influential unions which helped give President Obama slim victories in the state for both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Walker has made a name for himself as the most anti-union politician in America.
Walker first rose to prominence after revoking the rights of Wisconsin unions to utilize collective bargaining with their employers. This act caused a national controversy wherein Walker became extremely popular with anti-union conservatives but extremely unpopular among labor unions nationwide. The Walker administration was subject to massive protests and a recall election, which walker easily survived. These events initially propelled him to the political forefront but could be the undoing of his Presidential ambitions in the end.
Walker also lacks the charisma of both Bush and Rubio. He's bland, much like another promising Republican governor from the great lakes, 2012 Presidential Candidate Tim Pawlenty, who flamed out early due to a lack of grass roots enthusiasm for his campaign. Walker will almost certainly perform better than Pawlenty but his lack of oratorical skills when compared to his chief rivals should concern his campaign.
When all is said and done, Democratic strategists looking at the three most realistic general election matchups for Hillary Clinton would be able to create their most winnable narrative around Walker. Walker is a staunchly conservative, middle aged white man with no real pizazz as a candidate and no appeal to anyone outside of Republican's base constituencies. If Clinton is matched up against Bush or Rubio, it's going to be a lot more challenging to paint that kind of picture of her opponent.
Walker currently holds a solid lead in polling in the first in the nation Iowa Caucus and is a close second to Jeb Bush in the following contest in New Hampshire. Democrats can dream of a scenario wherein the GOP elects one of their most deeply unelectable candidates (which make up a substantial portion of the current field) but realistically ought to be hoping that they can go up against the flawed and surely beatable Scott Walker.
The coming months will reveal much of how the Republican nominating process will go, particularly the first Republican debate on August 6th. If Rubio and Bush find themselves faltering to the Wisconsin Governor or an even more troubling candidate, particularly the ever controversial Donald Trump, Democrats watching back home might just be smiling with glee.