After much hype from his campaign, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his health-care plan, which — like many of plans out there (including ones like those put out by Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Tom Price and Sen. Orrin Hatch) — proposes repealing Obamacare, going to a system of tax credits for those without employer-provided insurance, allowing insurance sales across state lines, high risk pools for the hard-to-insure and block granting Medicaid. Walker did not explain how he is going to pay for it.
There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from others. Even when ideas are not new, it is good for candidates to tell us which ones they are for. It is reassuring to see Republicans running on reform. But Walker’s plan just did not seem to live up to the billing. Frankly most of these guys are going to have pretty much the same ideas so unless there is something earthshaking it’s not always wise to build it up.
Moreover, Walker has now taken to swiping at GOP House and Senate leaders, accusing them of not doing enough to get rid of Obamacare. (“Republican leaders in Washington told us during the campaign last year that we needed a Republican Senate to repeal Obamacare. Well, Republicans have been in charge of both houses of Congress since January and there still isn’t a bill on the president’s desk to repeal Obamacare.”)
If you think this sounds just like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), you are right. Sliding in the polls, Walker is now chasing the Trump-Cruz-tea party contingent. Perhaps Walker does not recall the government shutdown when Republicans like Cruz wanted to force the president to kill his signature bill. “I like Scott Walker, but his staff has led him into a cul de sac of hypocrisy,” a senior GOP aide recalls. “He opposed going into the shutdown in 2013, so it is ironic that he is attacking GOP leaders who went further than he wanted in their attempts to repeal ObamaCare.” Of course the House did pass Obamacare repeal this year but it is bottled up in the Senate without 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Certainly Walker and his staff know all this.
Ironically, Walker’s staff is peppered with leadership aides including the highly regarded Andrew Bremberg, who was Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s point person on healthcare. Roll Call noted:
The Walker campaign told CQ Roll Call that Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute, a well-known physician for his role in health policy debates on the conservative side, had signed on as a senior adviser. Gottlieb had earlier in his career been deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration and a senior adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Shaw and Gottlieb have followed Policy Director Andrew Bremberg in joining Walker’s team. Bremberg, who had been a leadership aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, signed on to Walker’s Our American Revival (the predecessor to his formal presidential campaign shop) in May, as Politico had reported.
What is going on here? The exact same thing we saw in his embrace of Donald Trump’s immigration lunacy. A senior Republican strategist observes, “Walker’s biggest asset is his authentic Midwestern self and a ham-handed Ted Cruz impersonation destroys that authenticity. The bomb-throwers in the race would trade their rhetoric for Walker’s accomplishments in a minute but amazingly they’ve forced him to abandon his advantage and play their game.” He observes ruefully, “If his campaign panics over August polls it makes you wonder about his staying power.”
Walker never seemed willing to run as himself — a nerdy Midwest governor. Maybe that would not have been enough. But in doing so he certainly could have been proud of his campaign.