That’s argument made by National Journal’s Beth Reinhard. She argues that while the Wisconsin Republican governor scores below several other top contenders in pols now, he is well-positioned to rise in the top. This is thanks in large part to Walker beating back a union-led recall vote last year:
“The recall was a gift to him in that it put him in touch with the big funders in the Republican Party, and I’m sure he keeps that Rolodex pretty close,” said Brian Sikma, a spokesman for a conservative government watchdog group in Wisconsin. “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t run, and if you look at the tea leaves, he’s taking all the traditional steps.”
“I’m sure in next few months you’ll find him somewhere in New Hampshire,” said Milwaukee-based Republican consultant Todd Robert Murphy.
Walker has told the national media he’s not ruling out a White House bid, and he headlined a Republican Party fundraiser last month in Iowa, which traditionally hosts the first presidential nominating contest, followed by New Hampshire. The governor is also writing a book about his triumph in the 2012 recall election after he revoked collective bargaining rights and set off a political firestorm.
Even his own state, Walker ranked third — behind Ryan and Marco Rubio — in a poll of possible Republican presidential contenders by the Marquette University Law School. In national NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys of Republicans, Ryan and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are leading the pack, while Walker’s lower favorability ratings tied him for last place with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
But there’s a flip side to Walker’s lower profile. By not serving in Washington, he can steer clear of the contentious debate over immigration reform raging on Capitol Hill. The legislation to allow millions of illegal immigrants to earn citizenship is unpopular with the conservative base and could hamstring Rubio, who is spearheading the bill in the Senate. “He is making me seriously nervous,” said Lancia, who described himself as a former fan of the Florida senator. The conference of religious conservatives sat silently when ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another potential candidate for the White House, touted his support for the bill on Friday.
Reinhard notes that Walker is well-positioned to win re-election in Wisconsin (despite a still rather lackluster economic recovery in the state). Couple that with fact that he has potentially strong appeal to the religious right — the Baptist minister’s son is currently backing a bill to require women get ultrasound tests before an abortion can be allowed — and he is well-poised to step into the vacuum should Rubio, Ryan, ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and New Jersey governor Chris Christie stumble.