Rove-Stupid: How the Insider Consultant Class Destroyed Scott Walker Campaign

Scott Walker
AP Photo/Richard Shiro

Editors note: this is the initial installment in the series, Not Just Stupid, but Rove Stupid — the new definition of the Republican establishment.

Scott Walker burst onto the scene with his stunning Tea Party-based victory for governor in 2010. He then had the nerve to actually follow through on promises and roll back the powerful government unions that were causing Wisconsin all kinds of fiscal problems.

He was then naturally attacked viciously by unions from all across the country – yet rode tea party principles and tea party support to victory in a recall election and a normal re-election campaign as well. It was all stunning.

Fast forward to the winter and early spring of 2015: Walker comes charging out of the gate  – even though officially undeclared – with some unusually fiery articulation of conservative principles. Rush Limbaugh spent many days praising Walker for showing how to really defeat liberals in power. Walker was all over Drudge, Breitbart and the entire conservative internet. He had the buzz, the momentum, and poll numbers skyrocketing. Ditto his fundraising.

Then he immediately goes out and hires a bunch of career Washington consultants. This includes, but is not limited to, campaign manager Rick Wiley. That was his first mistake. His second was actually following their advice. As Ed Martin said in the Washington Times, “(Walker) started dancing on his positions as pollsters demand  – and it made him look weak and confused – immigration is the best example.” To wit , who can forget the seven different positions on anchor babies over the period of a single weekend? The base voters have not.

This is what happens when one abandons their instincts for the advice of insiders. But there’s more than just the messaging and issue problems. As Martin says, “Walker bought the Establishment plan …. (of) two decades….raise a boatload of money and spend it on consultants and staff (especially in early states) and then raise more money and run ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Same playbook – and the same results. Insanity is what, again?

Needless to say, Walker’s poll numbers tanked – as did his fundraising – and the over spending and misguided campaign was suddenly not viable. We all saw the result. Perhaps the most accomplished man running saw his campaign crash and burn like the Hindenburg. The one-time darling of the tea party movement was polling down there with Jim Gilmore and George Pataki.

“Yes, I would include the consultant class as part of the stupid people who are ruining this country,” said Herman Cain, referring to his famous applause line. “Jamie Dupree and I talked about it on my radio show at the time” Cain told Breitbart. “We thought it was strange that he was hiring all of these people out of Washington. They are out of touch with the country….it’s an incestuous system, and our guys keep hiring losers.”

Remember that Cain not only was winning the outsider vote for a while in the 2011-12 cycle, he also knows first hand what happened in Wisconsin. Cain initially drew national attention by wowing pro-Walker crowds in Madison not long after Rick Santelli’s now historic tea party rant on CNBC changed everything.

And hiring losers is what Walker had done. Wylie had been part of Rick Perry’s campaign four years ago, another candidate that “came out strong but hit rock bottom real quickly” according to Cain. He also spent a good deal of time at the Republican National Committee (RNC). Well of course.

Wiley works for Vin Weber at Mercury Public Affairs, a firm founded on and for the promiscuous nexus of lobbying and consulting. Weber himself went from being a reforming conservative to a consummate Washington lobbying insider on the gravy train. Think House of Cards.

In addition to Wiley, Walker’s team included establishment George Will’s wife Mari as a senior consultant. You can’t find a more glittering example of a good conservatives gone bad – after spending too much time in Washington – than those in the Will family. For the record, Will is the same man that assured us John McCain was the answer, then that Mitt Romney was the answer, and that John Robert’s Obama Care ruling (the first one) was a great conservative victory. That was George and not Mari, but does anyone seriously contend that they don’t think alike?

To paraphrase the iconic scene from Jurassic Park, “no wonder the Walker campaign  is extinct.” But this is not just a Walker problem. This recycling of losing consultants and losing ideas has been going on for decades. Our losers never lose a job, never go broke, and they hurt “should be” good candidates.

Consider: The Ted Cruz campaign hired insider Rick Tyler months ago. Look at the recent track record: Tyler started off 2011 working for Newt’s campaign. With Newt at zero, Tyler then jumped to Perry’s campaign (where ostensibly he and Wylie worked together). After helping Perry go from 30% down to 5%, Tyler then jumped to the Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, who was surging on the strength of his debate performances. Tyler immediately made the disastrous call to spend Sheldon Adelson’s money and run the Bain Capital attack campaign against Romney, effectively putting Newt to the left of Mitt. How did that work out?

It gets better. Tyler ended up managing Todd Akin’s campaign in the General Election. You can’t make this stuff up. He goes oh for four in one cycle, yet made a ton of money – and for some reason is hired by a good tea party candidate early in the next cycle. Cruz is employing an inexplicable milquetoast style so far. It is not consistent with what we’ve come to expect from Cruz, but it is certainly consistent with Tyler’s notion of communications. Just saying.

As far as I can tell, neither Donald Trump nor Ben Carson have hired any of these people, and look at where they are. These are not unrelated concepts. People are tired of and angry at the Washington establishment and the political class – including consultants. And they are now attuned to the nearly universal prissy formulaic “political speak” that this class employs. Trump and Carson are as different as two people can be, but neither speak the drone talking point language of Washington. It is refreshing, and unbeknownst to the consultant class, it is precisely what voters are craving. That’s why it is resonating so powerfully.

The losing track record of the Republican establishment and their consultant class – as configured now – goes back to at least 1992. The tensions go back further, at least to the 70’s, depending on how you interpret events in the rear view mirror. Yet the mindset and that fault lines remain largely the same. The same mistakes are made by the same people talking and thinking the same way.

They continue to misunderstand what focus groups and polls are telling them, and they continue to confuse tactics with strategy.

Over the next weeks and months, Breitbart will connect these dots and tie them into current events surrounding the 2016 campaign. We’ll demonstrate, over a long period of time, how establishment campaigns fail while base campaigns work. Obviously some of the players have changed, but the fault lines between this class and the rest of the country has not, except for growing larger and more obvious.  Well, obvious to us anyway.

So to clarify: are we exonerating the candidates from these mistakes? Absolutely not. It is their choice who to hire, who to fire, and who to listen to. They are fully culpable. And is Karl Rove responsible for all of this? Not exactly, but he is certainly the single most influential establishment force over the past 15 years. It’s his playbook, and it’s run by his colleagues and understudies. These are dots we will continue to connect as well.

Edmund Wright is a contributor to Breitbart, American Thinker, Newsmax TV, Talk Radio Network and author of several books, including Amazon Elections best seller WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost…Again.


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