Wisconsin Governor and Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker likes to tell voters this is the strongest GOP field in decades. But he also likes to draw a distinction about that field.
“There are fighters and there are winners, largely, in this race,” he says.
Walker inevitably goes on to describe himself as both a conservative fighter and a winner who’s gotten that agenda passed in Wisconsin. But as he campaigned in New Hampshire last week, Walker seemed bent to on showcasing his fighting side, like in this moment at a town hall meeting in Barrington.
“I want you to know when the chips are down, I’m not intimidated,” he said. “I may be a Midwestern guy who talks softly but I am not intimidated. When the chips are down, I will find a way to fight and win for Americans every single day.”
It’s no secret Walker’s been trying to talk louder these days. Even backers like Jim Musarra of Hancock say Walker can come off too muted in a field that includes the likes of Donald Trump. As an example, Mussara pointed toward the recent Fox News debate.
“He’s pretty low key,” Mussara said, “and, of course, Trump is completely different. The two have tremendously different personalities – the New York-style, in-your-face, as opposed to Wisconsin, where things are quieter and slower.”
Of Walker, Massara said “he seemed to be a little too much low key and didn’t stand out as much as perhaps he probably should have.”
Hence Walker’s effort this week to quote “turn up the energy” on his campaign. He repeatedly pointed out what he called growing anger among voters. “I see it all across America,” Walker said. “Heck, I’m angry with Washington. I’m not just angry with the president and the Democrats, I’m upset with a lot of the leaders in my own party. Last year, during the campaigns, I heard a lot of Republicans say to me, if we elect a United States Senate that goes Republican, we’ll keep the House, we’ll have the Republican Senate and we can finally do things like repeal Obamacare. Well, it’s August – and my party has controlled both chambers of the United States Congress and I still don’t see a bill on the president’s desk to repeal Obamacare.”
UNH political scientist Andy Smith says Walker is looking to court voters who have turned toward candidates who haven’t held elective office, including Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson – but in a way that can work for a candidate whose continuously held public office for more than 20 years. “He was trying to turn that focus as a purely anti-government focus to anti-Washington,” Smith said. “Governors that can point to success stories in their states and say that they did this in spite of Washington, helps them tap into that anti-Washington sentiment.”
This is exactly the rhetorical point Walker made as he addressed the audience at Politics and Eggs at Saint Anselm College. “I feel your pain, I’m just as frustrated,” Walker said. “But I think, in the end, if you want to do more than just be angry about it, if you want to do more than talk about how frustrated you are with Washington, I think most of you here and most people across this country want to do something about it.”
Whether Walker wins will, of course, be up to voters. How he talks about his message with those voters, though, will be up to him.
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