Presidential Contenders: Part 3

With only a two-day delay, here’s part three of the presidential contender series. I’m covering the recently-withdrawn Scott Walker (if I covered Rick Perry, no excuse to pass on Governor Walker) and fellow Midwesterner John Kasich.

Scott Kevin Walker
Governor of Wisconsin
Hometown: Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Scott Walker officially withdrew from the race on Monday, marking an end to a candidacy that was once ranked in the top tier of contenders. He failed to really distinguish himself in the crowded field, and along with Rick Perry, proved that having massive funding in a super PAC can’t keep a campaign afloat by itself.

In his tenure in Madison, Governor Walker made a name for himself nationally in a showdown with the state’s public employees over a collective bargaining dispute. He survived a recall election in 2012 and won reelection in 2014 – essentially meaning he had been elected as governor three times (even if only for two terms). He also was a staunch social conservative, unequivocally opposing abortion. It seemed as if he could be an ideal candidate for the Republican base in many ways – executive experience, a proven winner, conservative bona fides, and unassociated with “Washington.”

Yet despite being tied with the then-frontrunner Jeb Bush at some points over the summer, Governor Walker’s campaign fell precipitously after Donald Trump entered the race. The Trump campaign has sapped media attention and focus from many other campaigns, fueling his own rise to the top of the Republican primary polls. Governor Walker failed to impress in the debates and never really stood out. One wonders upon his withdrawal – and call for other candidates to do the same, in order to enable someone to better take on Donald Trump – will lead to other low-polling candidates to do the same.

John Richard Kasich
Governor of Ohio
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

John Kasich is one of the latest entrants to the race and one of the most distinctive candidates. He officially announced right before the first debate last month, and his subsequent bump in the polls from media attention likely bumped Rick Perry out of the top ten candidates for the primetime debate (which may have doomed his campaign – not that sharing the stage with nine others would have guaranteed Governor Perry could have stayed in).

Since entering, he has generally stayed in the top ten without ever taking the lead, although he polls well in New Hampshire, second in some cases. Governor Kasich is unique among prominent Republicans for embracing the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid in his state, and he has generally positioned himself as a right-leaning moderate who can win over independent voters and avoid alienating many. One of the best arguments he can make is over his chances in key swing state Ohio – he won reelection as governor in his home state with 64 percent of the vote. It’s difficult to imagine a Democratic candidate winning Ohio against a GOP candidate with John Kasich on the ticket.

In many ways, Jeb Bush, with his embrace of immigration reform, tries to run in this direction as well. Governor of a swing state, solid electoral record – yet he has failed to ignite and claim true frontrunner status. Neither has Governor Kasich, but the fact that he’s competitive in the race speaks to the fact that Governor Bush failed to lock up the center-right positioning. John Kasich is no liberal – he opposes many abortion rights, for instance – but he fares well in matchups, and the prospect of a strong GOP advantage in the race with a Kasich-Rubio or Kasich-Bush ticket (a competitive edge in the biggest swing state prizes, Ohio and Florida) should worry Democrats.


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