Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is catching fire again on the campaign trail as the national conversation shifts to social and national security issues ranging from marriage to abortion to immigration to President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and other national security matters.
While some of his campaign consultants don’t want the governor focusing on this stuff, it’s where he does his best—and it’s where he shoots up in the polls, as he’s done in the latest Iowa poll from Monmouth University.
The Monmouth poll of 452 Iowans from Thursday through Sunday with a margin of error of 4.6 percent found Walker squarely in the lead—the biggest lead he’s had in a long time—earning 22 percent of support. The next best performer in the poll is real estate magnate billionaire Donald Trump at 13 percent, while Dr. Ben Carson pulls 8 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is tied with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at 7 percent apiece. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee gets 6 percent.
“Walker has been a favorite of Iowa voters ever since his well-received appearance at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January,” pollster Patrick Murray said in a statement.
Walker, since formally launching his White House bid outside Milwaukee in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a week ago, has barnstormed the campaign trail. He first hit Nevada, then South Carolina, then New Hampshire and just wrapped a several-day-long swing through Iowa—where he plans to tour all 99 counties in the Hawkeye State going for the “Full Grassley” as its known, named for the state’s senior GOP senator and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
His first week was rocked with bad travel luck and a couple odd campaign decisions, which have since been rectified.
“Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker said Wednesday he hasn’t slept for more than a day after thunderstorms wreaked havoc on the commercial flight schedule his campaign created to stress his everyman persona and save some money,” Bloomberg’s John McCormick wrote last Wednesday. “The Wisconsin governor arrived just a few minutes late to his 8 a.m. stop in the early primary state of South Carolina, after driving through the night from Atlanta following a missed connection there. Joined by his three family members and aides, Walker was trying to get to South Carolina from Las Vegas, where he’d made his first campaign appearance Tuesday after announcing his presidential bid Monday in Wisconsin.”
Meanwhile, in his announcement speech previously in Waukesha and in his first couple campaign stops, Walker didn’t include as part of his speeches the issue that’s helped him skyrocket to and stay at the top of the polls in places like Iowa: Immigration.
“Even though immigration has often dominated this presidential contest, Walker did not mention it in his announcement speech or his first couple of campaign stops, including a breakfast at a Harley-Davidson dealership in North Charleston, S.C. ,” the Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson wrote.
But after Breitbart News called out the announcement speech snafu—and a voter in South Carolina yelled out to Walker according to the Post’s Johnson “What about the border?”—Walker began including border security in his stump speech from there on out.
“At the next campaign stop, a barbecue joint in Lexington, Walker added immigration to his stump speech and continued to talk about the issue — nearly always receiving loud, supportive cheers,” Johnson wrote.
Later in Iowa, Johnson’s piece noted, an illegal alien confronted Walker–and he held his ground against Obama’s executive amnesty.
“As presidential hopeful Scott Walker toured a farm in this tiny town where he lived as a child, he was confronted by an undocumented worker from Mexico who is living in Wisconsin and demanded to know why Walker does not support President Obama’s plan to give temporary status to some undocumented workers, including parents of children who were born in the United States,” Johnson wrote in a piece filed from Plainville, Iowa.
“We’re a nation of laws,” Walker responded to the illegal alien, Jose Flores, two of whose four children Luis and Leslie joined him. “My point is that you have to follow the law, follow the process.”
The Post’s Johnson noted that even though the illegal alien’s daughter “had tears rolling down her cheeks throughout the exchange,” Walker stood strong against amnesty.
Walker’s pitch to voters that he’ll focus on border security and on protecting Americans’ jobs instead of helping special interests and illegal aliens first—like other candidates from the Republican establishment and some Democrats want to do—has been insanely popular. It fits closely, too, with his everyman blue collar image protecting American workers, something he’s amplified by appearing at Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealerships around the country.
In a previous interview, GOP pollster KellyAnne Conway told Breitbart News that Walker’s stance on immigration is a “winning hand” and he should be highlighting it everywhere he goes.
“The left will try to caricature him as union-busting, as anti-worker. This gives him the opportunity to say ‘if you’re for amnesty, you’re anti-worker. What I am is pro-worker. It is anti government corruption. Having public sector union members expect Wisconsin taxpayers pay 100 percent of their benefits, that wasn’t fair,’” Conway told Breitbart News back in April. “It’s a matter of fairness. Allow him to explain all of that as pro-worker not anti-worker and if he can do that he’ll be fine. Also, this gives him a distinction among a Republican field that’s getting increasingly crowded. This allows him to be seen as a working-class, populist hero—a working class governor who’s a natural populist, it’s just a natural fit. I don’t know if Mitt Romney could have pulled this off. Then you fast forward and you think of this idea versus Hillary Clinton—if she even has anything to say on immigration—this is the winning hand. This is absolutely the winning hand.”
Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts—who ran unsuccessfully in New Hampshire after losing his U.S. Senate seat to Sen. Liz Warren (D-MA), but remains a force to be reckoned with in Granite State politics—also told Breitbart News back in April that Walker’s immigration position is a winner. Brown nearly succeeded in defeating Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) by focusing on the issue, and if he won he would have been only the third person in U.S. history and first since the 1800s to have won a U.S. Senate seat in two separate states.
“In New Hampshire, we care about securing the border and enforcing the rule of law,” Brown told Breitbart News at the time. “Right now, due primarily to a lack of leadership from President Obama, neither are being done. I know Governor Walker, and have discussed this issue with him. I know he supports legal immigration. I know he also wants to reform our immigration system in a way that will help grow the economy and create more good-paying jobs for the many middle-class Americans that have been left behind during the Obama years. We can accomplish both goals, but it requires bold leadership and a new Republican president.”
So as Walker has added it back into his regular repertoire—which happened before pollsters from Monmouth went into the field last Thursday—he’s shot back up to the commanding lead he once enjoyed at the front of the Iowa pack. Polling data from Conway’s organization and from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released last year, too, shows that if Walker sticks to the issue through the primaries and then through the general election should he be fortunate enough to win the nomination, it’s a winner there too.
“It is one of those rare issues that is a clear winner in both the Republican primaries and caucuses, and then in the general election as well,” Conway said in her April interview with Breitbart News. “Our polling shows independents and even many Democrats support newly created jobs going to U.S.-born Americans and legal immigrants. It has bipartisan support because job losses are bipartisan. Support for a pro-American immigration policy has earned bipartisan support because job losses have been bipartisan in nature. In fact, many of these private sector union households have lost their jobs in construction and manufacturing and a lot healthcare based job losses because of Obamacare. Everybody is feeling the pinch either as a direct stakeholder or second hand surrogate and worried about job losses and this is one of the biggest solutions. If I’m looking for a job, why are we giving preference to non-U.S.-born workers?”
The key, however, for Walker is focusing on it—and other issues that have the same impact, like social conservative issues and national security matters—despite what his consultants are telling him, as he indicated in New Hampshire last week. Those aren’t what I’m running on,” Walker said according to the Associated Press, reflecting a campaign consultant culture pushing him to focus on in prepared remarks things that are less controversial. “It’s just the unique thing that people are surprised about is, I actually answer questions.”
“Mr. Walker is trying to straddle the establishment, conservative, Tea Party and evangelical wings of the Republican Party, a strategy that could garner him support, but one that might also alienate voters if they feel he is running to the right in Iowa and to the middle in New Hampshire,” the New York Times added in a piece that honed in on how Walker has strategically straddled the fence.
When a reporter asked him if he’s a “conservative” or an “independent,” the Times wrote, Walker “paused a couple of seconds” before answering: “I’m an American, that’s what I am. I’m an American.”
But with immigration back in the stump speech, Iran and Cuba deals with Obama dominating the news cycle, and social conservative issues like marriage and abortion coming up frequently due to the recent Supreme Court decisions, covert video showing a Planned Parenthood official trying to sell aborted baby body parts, and the governor himself signing a 20-week abortion ban into law, the discussion nationally is focused squarely on this stuff.
“As a pro-life candidate, Walker wants to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood,” Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody wrote. “In addition, he’s called the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide a ‘grave mistake’ and wants a constitutional amendment allowing states to define the issue not the courts.”
“At five months, that’s the time when that unborn child can feel pain,” Walker said when signing the 20-week abortion ban into law in Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “When an unborn child can feel pain, we should be protecting that child.”
On Iran, Walker has lambasted President Obama’s deal while his campaign has worked to draw a contrast in courage with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol told Politico made him seem more “Reagan-like” than Bush.
“Bush seems more Bush-like, and Walker seems more Reagan-like; and being more Reagan-like is probably a little better in a Republican primary,” Kristol told Politico. “I think Walker showed a certain toughness and confidence in being willing to mix it up with Bush, and that toughness usually serves politicians well.”
Walker went so far as to say on day one as president he might order military action against Iran if necessary.
“I believe that a president shouldn’t wait to act until they put a cabinet together or for a certain period of time,” Walker said on Saturday, according to Politico. “I believe that they should be prepared to act on the very first day they take office. It’s very possible, God forbid that this would happen, but it’s very possible that the next president could be called on to take aggressive actions, including military actions, on their very first day in office, and I don’t want a president who is not prepared to act on Day One.”
That was in response to Bush taking a veiled shot at Walker, without naming him.
“One thing that I won’t do is just say, as a candidate, ‘I’m going to tear up the agreement on the first day,’” Bush said on Friday in remarks in Nevada, according to Politico. “That’s great, that sounds great but maybe you ought to check in with your allies first, maybe you ought to appoint a secretary of state, maybe secretary of defense, you might want to have your team in place, before you take an act like that.”
He doubled down, Politico noted, while talking with reporters after his remarks. “If you’re running for president, you know, I think it’s important to be mature and thoughtful about this,” Bush said.
Kristol, however, said Walker is right on this matter.
“I think Jeb and his team wanted to go out of their way to show how sophisticated they are, and implicitly paint Walker and his team as rubes who don’t understand how things really work in Washington,” Kristol said according to Politico. “Walker was smart to hit back.”
Then there’s the Cuba deal Obama cut, which also has Walker hammering away.
“Today, the Castro regime is opening its embassy in the United States,” Walker said in a blistering statement on Monday. “Much like with Iran, desperation for a deal has led President Obama to give up much in exchange for almost nothing. The president has handed Cuba a financial lifeline through increased U.S. tourism and investment that will sustain the Castro regime and its oppression for decades to come. Meanwhile, the so-called normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba will do nothing to advance American interests or the interests of the Cuban people. A president who believes in American leadership and negotiates from a position of strength would use our leverage to advance U.S. interests and gain greater freedoms for the Cuban people. Unfortunately, President Obama refuses to do that.”
The question moving forward is whether Walker stays on these things, or whether he backs away from tackling these tough issues that have him skyrocketing in the polls.
A Walker suggested last week to the National Journal that the governor plans to back away from this stuff later in the campaign if he gets that far. “You start in Iowa and lock up conservatives, because if you don’t do that, none of the rest matters,” the Walker adviser reportedly said. “It’s much easier to move from being a conservative to being a middle-of-the-road moderate later on.”
But, with the polling data showing these issues are winners in a general election and in not-so-conservative states, why would he back down? Maybe he will stay the course. It remains to be seen.