It’s way to early to say with confidence who the Republican presidential nominee will be. But I think we can identify some candidates who will not be the nominee.
The obvious ones include George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, and Lindsey Graham. We can probably add Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and maybe Rand Paul and Chris Christie to the list.
And here’s another name I’m almost ready to add — Scott Walker.
Walker’s path to the nomination was to begin in Iowa just across the border from his home state. In July, the Wisconsin governor was in first place in the polls with 18 percent, almost double that of his closest rivals, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
Now, just two and half months later, a Quinnipiac University poll puts Walker in tenth place with 3 percent support. Trump leads with 27 percent; Carson is second at 21 percent.
Walker has campaigned assiduously in Iowa. His collapse there is a massive indictment of his candidacy.
Even more damning, I think, is that the case for nominating Walker is in shambles. That case, which earlier in the year had me thinking he might well be my first choice, was based on the notion that he combined the best of “establishment” qualities — a record of serious, successful governing experience — with the best of “outsider” qualities — a record of successfully taking on special interests.
Walker still has his Wisconsin record. But he has undermined the case that he’s a serious national figure through his propensity to dodge tough questions (calling them hypothetical) and/or waffle on them. “Good governance” Republicans will very likely look elsewhere for their candidate.
So will those who crave an outsider. For a significant chunk of the “anti-establishment” crowd, it is not enough never to have held office in Washington, DC. Even being governor makes one an insider — a member of the dreaded “political class.”
This odd sentiment may subside as the campaign proceeds, but is likely to hold sway among Iowa caucus-goers. (In the Quinnipiac poll, the three candidates who never have held elective office command 53 percent of the support). And Walker needs to win in Iowa.
But put aside the craze for non-office holders. Put aside too the fact that Walker breathes fire only intermittently. A candidate as wishy-washy as Walker probably cannot become the anti-establishment choice in a field with so many alternatives.
Scott Walker isn’t the only one-time first-tier candidate whose case for the nomination is crumbling. Jeb Bush is also squeezed by the logic (if one wishes to call it that) of this campaign’s dynamic.
Bush’s woes will be the subject of another post. For now, I’ll just say that he isn’t being squeezed as badly as Walker is, and that he has the money, name-recognition, and (in some quarters) good will to hang in there in the hope that the campaign dynamic will become more favorable to him.