WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – After Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin, a new name has been added to the list of recent Republican du jour figures that have attempted to energize the party since George W. Bush left the Oval Office.
In the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s decisive recall win, a new wave of excitement has been conjured up from what pundits described as the second most important political race of the year. But with the added layer of passion surrounding Walker and his win comes speculation regarding his role as the hot Republican figure of the moment, what awaits him following the recall and if Mitt Romney and the GOP can ride the momentum gained in Wisconsin through the summertime stops on the campaign trail.
“I think Gov. Romney has a clear chance,” Walker said on Wednesday to Fox News about Romney’s chances of winning Wisconsin against President Barack Obama. “He went from six months ago, where it was almost a foregone conclusion, the president would carry Wisconsin, to one where I think it will be incredibly competitive, just as it was for President Bush in 2004, where Wisconsin was the closest blue state in America.”
Since Sarah Palin was tapped as the running mate for Arizona Sen. John McCain four years ago, there have been a slew of suitors to take over the role of Republican flavor of the moment. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown had a cup of coffee in the limelight. Some products of the Republican primaries such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann were temporary, while former Pennsylvania Gov. Rick Santorum may have some staying power after all. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and his budget plan remains in the conversation. And pundits regularly thump the merits of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as potential Romney running mates. In some ways, he’s still the new kid on the national scene, and yet Walker has been elevated to a similar star status. The way he has not backed down from difficult decisions before and during the attempted recall process could pay dividends to his party’s nominee, Brian Nemoir, a Wisconsin Republican strategist, told CBSDC.
“You have to crawl under a rock right now to find someone who doesn’t know who Scott Walker is,” said Nemoir, owner of Full Impact Communications. “His national profile is jettisoning upward and Romney would be well served to take a page out of the Walker playbook.”
What differentiates Walker from the other Republican du jour figures post-Palin is that the timing of his national rise coincides with his party’s support behind a single candidate, perhaps altering the scope and tone of the conversation in conservative circles about how to ride Walker’s increased profile. But the Walker bump has inevitably sparked talk about the Wisconsin governor’s hopes of becoming Romney’s running mate. This week, Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen predicted that a Walker win would elevate him as “the instant front-runner for the GOP vice presidential nod.”
“Putting Walker on the GOP ticket would make Romney instantly competitive in Wisconsin,” Thiessen wrote. “And it would force President Obama to spend time and resources defending a state he expected to be an easy win in November.
With Walker overcoming the push-back from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett during a tiring recall election, Nemoir said that Walker’s ongoing political courage would play nicely in terms of being recommended as Romney’s running mate, if he was to be considered.
“When you walk into the lion’s den like he has and you survive, you will start hearing his name mentioned more frequently and rightfully so,” Nemoir said. “He just survived a recall election that when you see the final totals of what was being spent against him [by Barrett], you would have been suspect of his survival.”
In the last 10 general elections, the winning candidate has won Wisconsin seven out of 10 times. Even with a possible bump from Walker’s win, winning Wisconsin remains an uphill climb for Romney, as the state has gone blue in the last six general elections. In 2008, Obama handily defeated McCain in Wisconsin by 14 percentage points, garnering 56 percent of the vote. Exit polls from Tuesday’s election, the same one that Walker won, indicate that Obama still holds a lead of nine percentage points on Romney among those who voted. And about 17 percent of voters who supported Walker said they would back the president, according to exit poll numbers.
Still, Walker’s national rise is a curious one amid a recall election in a state that is seen as a Democratic mainstay on the electoral map. He’s not as loud as Christie, or the face of the Tea Party like Rubio, or has had a substantial amount of face time with the national media like Santorum. Instead, he just won the second most important campaign of the year. Whatever his role may be come November, pundits agree that he will have a visible role during the election cycle, looked at as an asset for Team Romney. If du jour is in this election season, then Walker, in his new role as the darling of the Republican Party, won’t be going away just yet.
“The sky is only the limit,” Nemoir said.