Is Scott Walker still the 2016 dark horse GOP candidate?

Since Scott Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin in 2010, he has flitted on and off the national radar. When he faced a gubernatorial recall election in 2012, he attracted a massive outpouring of support from national Republican donors who agreed with the labor policies that sparked his recall in the first place — the type of donors that would come in handy if his ambitions grew so tall that they were no longer the right height for the Midwest.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker addresses hundreds of school officials and school board members gathered in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. Walker said he will back legislation creating a commission to review and recommend changes to the state’s academic standards and he believes they will end up being tougher than those nationally.  (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Michael Sears)

He became the only governor to ever win a recall election, and the Republican Party figured if he could win that, he was probably a good person to keep in mind for the presidential nomination in 2016. Although Walker was never the chief candidate in the minds of political prognosticators, when frontrunner Chris Christie took a fall, Walker was always among the first to be mentioned as a possible substitute. Now that Walker is facing two investigations at home and increased scrutiny across the country, who knows who the presidential flavor of the next few months will be?

Here's a short history of Scott Walker's 2016 buzz, which offers a snapshot of how Walker is viewed in the tangled web of not-at-all-certain potential GOP presidential candidates as well as how each of these possible candidates rank after a scandal erupts.

November 2, 2010,  "There might be a really good idea that emerges from one of these gubernatorial candidates, or really bad ideas," Christian Grose, a political science professor at USC, told the Los Angeles Times. And, he added, successful new governors "can be the kind of person who runs for president in 2016. Where did Sarah Palin come from, right?"

May 12, 2011, The Tampa Bay Times: "As much as Scott insists it’s nowhere on his radar, some of his allies suspect he sees a last-minute 2012 presidential bid as a viable option. If so, he’s delusional. But don’t think for a minute that Scott is not also keeping an eye on 2016."

June 20, 2012, The Atlantic: "The bench of up-and-coming talent in the Republican Party is an instructive contrast. A recent straw-poll ballot for vice presidential choices at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Chicago featured 22 names, from retreads like Newt Gingrich to fresh faces like Rubio to newly minted political stars like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Nine major Republican candidates participated in this year's presidential primary, and while it was seen as a weak field overall, Republicans dismayed by the spectacle of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain as momentary front-runners comforted themselves by contemplating the party's many future stars in the Senate, House, and governorships. Many of those rising stars, like New Jersey's Chris Christie, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Virginia's Bob McDonnell, have already begun building relationships with their party's national base by appearing at party events outside their home states or on the busy circuit of conservative activist conferences."

June 26, 2012, Politico: "'I have not made any plans for the future, and my wife would kill me if I announced anything before that,' [Scott] said. Asked about 2016, he added: 'I'm not announcing for anything.'"

June 17, 2013, National Journal: "He's poised to be the sleeper Republican presidential candidate of 2016."

August 5, 2013, National Review: "Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is being mentioned as a dark horse so frequently that he is rapidly ceasing to be one. The case for Walker bears some resemblance to the case for Tim Pawlenty, then the governor of Minnesota, four years ago. Like Pawlenty, Walker is a northern evangelical and a successful governor of a blue state in a region of the country Republicans lust after. He has a great advantage over Pawlenty, though, in that the political battles in his state attracted national attention."

August 24, 2013, The Atlantic: "The smart money at the Republican National Committee meeting in Boston last week was that the real 2016 contest isn't going to be between Paul and Christie, however, but between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the New Jersey governor, potentially pitting two pugnacious and experienced state executives against each other, with Walker tacking to the right and Christie tacking to the center on social issues."

October 22, 2013, Granite State Poll: "Unlike the Democratic field, there is no clear cut favorite on the Republican side when it comes to net electability. Rand Paul (+12%) leads the field while Christie (+9%), Ryan (+8%), Brown (+5%), Rubio (+2%), Walker (+1%) and Kasich (+1%) also have positive net electability scores. "

November 13, 2013, The Economist: "Mr Walker is now trying the national stage. On November 19th he published a book, "Unintimidated", describing his Wisconsin battles and all but declaring himself a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He suggests that the party's next White House contender should be a problem-solving governor, rather than a member of the dysfunctional, much-reviled Congress (though he makes a tactful exception for Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman who was Mitt Romney's running-mate in 2012). That is a heroically self-serving observation: a stiletto jammed into the ribs of such rivals as Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. It is also probably true. And it leaves standing Chris Christie, subject of much 2016 buzz, recently re-elected New Jersey's governor by a crushing margin. Mr. Walker praises his swaggering colleague as admirably 'in-your-face'. 'I have more of a midwestern filter,' he adds delicately, making that sound a good thing to have."

November 17, 2013, ABC News: "When Walker talks about the kind of candidate Republicans should nominate in 2016, it sounds more than a little like he is talking about himself."

November 18, 2013, Slate: "If you are a Republican and you like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, then you probably already have your candidate for the 2016 presidential campaign. If you do not like Christie, then your candidate for 2016 is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker."

February 2014, Texas Monthly: "The 2016 presidential primary will therefore be a battle over the direction of the party as much as the nomination. The establishment would like to see a nominee who can bridge the party's internal divisions and swing votes in the general election, like Chris Christie, Scott Walker, or Jeb Bush."

February 5, 2014, Politico: "As Chris Christie's star falls, the party is giving a second look to another brash blue-state governor who stared down unions at home: Scott Walker."

February 7, 2014, The Washington Times: "In its latest breakdown of the 2016 GOP presidential sweepstakes, the University of Virginia's Center for Politics says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the person to beat in the GOP nomination race."

February 12, 2014, Slate: "Even if voters don’t want to talk about it, the implications of the upcoming election may be even bigger this time around. The 2014 election is just one variable in a potential Walker 2016 presidential run. There have certainly been plenty of thinkpieces speculating that he’s going to run for president, and Walker isn’t doing much to dispel the rumors. He’s a regular on Morning Joe and at national Republican events, he headed the Republican Governors Association, he writes op-eds in the Washington Post about the state of national politics, and he came out with a memoir last year. He gets around."

February 19, 2014, Buzzfeed: "Democrats and Walker critics are poring through thousands of documents released Wednesday as part of the probe looking for embarrassing material they can use against the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate."

February 19, 2014, Politico: "Walker himself was never charged with any wrongdoing and has said he did not believe he was a target of the probe, which ended last year, but the release of the documents fueled Democratic hopes of embarrassing the potential 2016 presidential candidate."

February 19, 2014, The New York Times: "Even as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin looks ahead to 2016 and a possible presidential bid, his political past as Milwaukee County Executive has come back to haunt him."

 Must-reads:

"E-mails could mean trouble for Walker’s 2016 hopes" — Rosalind S. Helderman, The Washington Post

"As Obama Vows to Go It Alone, Justices Weigh a Boundary" — Adam Liptak, The New York Times

"NSA Weighs Retaining Data for Suits" — Devlin Barrett and Sioban Gorman

 

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