Although Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may have been the most recent, and possibly last, candidate to enter the 2016 GOP presidential race, entering the race on July 13th, he is already polling as a top 3 candidate within the crowded GOP field.
Perhaps the biggest question facing this republican primary is what attribute will help to separate these candidates. What will help them to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field?
Governor Scott Walker could be that special candidate to break away from the rest of the 2016 field.
He has branded himself as the every-man. A man who buys his shirts from Kohls and his suits from Joseph A. Bank. He doesn’t possess a college degree so he can’t be thrown in with the Ivy League elite. He is a very personable, salt of the earth kind of guy with humble beginnings as a preacher’s son.
Is it really your policies that get you elected president anymore anyway? Some question the fact that a candidate’s stance on a particular issue may not be as important compared to how the candidate appeals to the people.
Presidential image is what this is called, and it has become one the most critical tools used during recent presidential campaigns. Many point to the drastic rise of a junior senator from Illinois and his eventual, shockingly swift, rise to the highest political office in United States as a perfect case study for this shift.
Although Barack Obama had virtually no political experience, he and his campaign staff effectively managed his presidential image so that he appealed to a record number of voters in 2008. His charismatic personality and effectiveness when delivering his message helped him win over voters throughout the country.
Governor Walker has the ability to utilize his image to his advantage in the 2016 race. It is rare that a presidential candidate possesses both, the executive experience that many say is a necessity for a candidate, and also the character attributes that will allow them to connect to middle and lower classes.
More often than not, politicians are branded as citizens of the upper class, wealthy, and thus not as relatable to middle America. Not Scott Walker.
He embodies the average middle class American father. You can see it in his quirkiness. He loves to sing karaoke, dress in jean shorts, and embarrass his two sons like any father might do.
Other than his personal character attributes, Scott Walker’s image has also been molded by several experiences during his governorship.
Namely in 2011, when Walker decided to take on the unions in Wisconsin, a move that brought on an onslaught of criticism from the people of Wisconsin.
I can’t help but to picture Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey in the Netflix series House of Cards, as he took on the teachers unions in such a bold fashion when thinking about this move by Governor Walker (In no way am I making a comparison between these two figures, for they represent opposite ends of the political spectrum).
Governor Scott Walker, in an attempt to cut budget spending and save money for the state of Wisconsin, successfully eliminated collective bargaining rights for many of the state’s public employees in 2011. This move made Walker a target for democrats everywhere and a hero to the conservative base.
The fierce push-back from this event forced a recall election in 2012, in which Governor Walker became the first governor ever to survive a recall election in his/her own state. Not only did he win the recall election, but Governor Walker won with a larger percentage of the votes than he originally had in the previous election cycle.
Walker continued to pursue his agenda regardless of the criticisms he faced. In 2015 he signed a right-to-work bill that gave employees in private sector unionized industries the right to choose whether or not they wanted to join or contribute to that particular union. Previously, employees were required to join the unions in return for the collective bargaining benefits they could provide to their members.
Walker also has proposed, within his 2015 – 2017 two year budget, a $250 million cut to the University System of Wisconsin and a freeze to in-state tuition rates. This coming at a time when student loan debt has surpassed all of the credit card debt held across the country.
Governor Scott Walker has made a vast array of changes to Wisconsin’s political, social, and economic structure. He has garnered many successes and launched himself into the role of main challenger to Jeb Bush in 2016, the proverbial front-runner.
The combination of his well-crafted presidential image and gubernatorial experience has many believing he will be the next republican candidate for president. Only the coming months will tell if he can truly distinguish himself from the rest of the GOP field.
His journey has just begun.