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What advantages does Scott Walker offer?

Every GOP presidential candidate, most especially in a crowded field with lots of solid contenders, needs to answer a single question: Why me and not one of the 20 or so other hopefuls who are running? We will look at a number of candidates, each with a different argument for his or her candidacy. We will start today with the candidate who got the most buzz in Iowa.

In a recent interview Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made his own case, which I think, can be boiled down to 10 key points:

1. Republicans “can’t win with just Republican votes,” he says. Forget the ones pitching far to the right or the ones with no sell to disaffected (Walker calls them “discerning”) Democrats. Find someone who can put together an electoral majority as Walker did. Three times.

2. The GOP needs a standard-bearer, he says, with both the “courage and the capacity” to win and get a conservative agenda enacted. It is an uphill climb for senators to make the case (although possible). He has been among state leaders in Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey and elsewhere who won with a diverse electorate and then successfully passed a conservative agenda.

3. He has done at the state level the things Republicans want to do nationally — cut taxes, implement school choice, achieve health-care reform, promote business and job growth, and defend taxpayers against public employee unions. In other words, his record is relevant to this presidential election.

4. He can articulate well a vision that does not appeal only to entrepreneurs. As he likes to say, every American wants the chance “to live his or her piece of the American dream.” That dream does not necessarily include starting one’s own business, but can be owning a home, sending a kid to college, raising a family in a safe city, etc.

5. He understands Republicans want to “boldly chart out” a vision for the country. Conservatives call this “painting in bold colors,” and he surely did that in Iowa.

6. He is a feisty pol who took on and beat the left three times in four years. He says with the right amount of cockiness, “I wouldn’t be betting against me.”

7.  On foreign policy, he is as fluent at this point in the campaign on national security as any first-time nominee in recent memory (with the exception of Sen. John McCain in 2008) and has only begun to talk about the subject. (Did Bill Clinton know any more in 1992?) But a good deal of the issue here is about temperament. Walker is neither unpredictably explosive nor excessively excitable. That can’t be said about a number of candidates. The ability to project steely resolve certainly matters here, as does his belief in the United States’ unique role in the world.

8. There is no obvious flaw. The “Pawlenty did too” argument does not wash; former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty did not have the record nor the political chops Walker does. The issue here is: Who else could appeal to the full gamut of Republicans?

9. He is a proven winner. Call him the un-Romney, who lost three times (once for Senate and twice for president).

10. He can embrace his ordinariness, his modest background and his lack of a college degree. He received no advantage from family, inherited wealth, or extraordinary luck. He succeeded by tenacity and desire — the precise qualities he suggests should allow any American to rise.

As we go through the campaign, we will look at a number of candidates and ask what unique advantages he or she has. As for Walker, it is hard to argue he lacks the potential to distinguish himself from the rest of the field. The question will be whether he successfully does so.

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