Will Gov. Scott Walker zoom past New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on his motorcycle thanks to the developing scandal related to creation of traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge?
So says John Hayward at Human Events.
"One of the little preliminary races that pundits have been placing some early bets on, years out from the 2016 presidential election, is whether the Establishment Guy in the GOP primary would be Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie," Hayward blogged. "The race may just have been settled..."
Not so fast, counters Peter Grier, Washington editor at the Christian Science Monitor.Back in November, John Dickerson wrote in Slate that if governors have an edge over senators, Walker would be Christie's main competition.
"Does it show that Christie is a bully who at the least created an atmosphere where such vindictiveness could flourish? His opponents think that already, and in “Bridge-ghazi” will see confirmation of their view," writes Grier. "Is he a take-charge guy who is willing to break a little china to get stuff done? There are probably lots of Republican primary voters who do not believe that jamming up New York City’s intake routes is a bad thing."
That narrows the field down to the pool of leading current and former Republican governors: Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rick Perry, and Walker. All of those men have something to recommend them, but "no one checks as many boxes as Walker does," as an Iowa GOP strategist puts it. Walker has near hero status in the grassroots for taking on Wisconsin’s public sector unions. Cruz talks about taking stands on principle, but he lost his fight. Walker took a stand, was targeted by the full force of the Democratic machine, and stayed alive. He won a recall election with a larger margin than his original victory. He raised $30 million for that race, so he knows how to tap wealthy donors. Social conservatives also consider him one of their own for his pro-life views and his pedigree: His father was a Baptist minister.
Jindal and Perry have supporters in conservative circles, but Jindal can't match Walker's union-slaying story and Perry's accomplishments won't help him overcome the memories of his disastrous 2012 run. If the incentive is to pick a Christie alternative who can survive, it also helps if the candidate comes from a battleground state—even better if they come from a swing state in the Midwest. Walker also brings helpful connections to Iowa, that early caucus state. Besides governing in nearby Wisconsin, Walker grew up in Iowa. Right now GOP operatives describe the competition in the Hawkeye State as one between Rand Paul (whose forces control the state party) and Sen. Ted Cruz (who excites the base).
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hails from a swing state, but he himself has admitted that he is out of step with the Republican Party on immigration. He may still be noodling a run, but he could easily be painted as a GOP moderate—and that space is already occupied by Christie. That leaves just John Kasich of Ohio. Like Walker, Kasich also took on the unions, but he lost. In the eyes of conservatives, he did something else that may be unpardonable: He took federal Medicaid money as a part of the Affordable Care Act. That robs Kasich of an issue he could have used to distinguish himself from Christie (who also took Medicaid money) and, say some conservatives, dismantles his ability to argue for smaller spending in Washington. Walker, on the other hand, refused the Medicaid money, and is launching his own state solution, which is receiving praise from conservatives.