When Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin met privately here at the Capitol Hill Club recently with a group of congressional Republicans, he did not just seek their support for his presidential candidacy. He also laid out a state-by-state assessment of how the 2016 race would unfold.
He pointed to his family roots in Iowa and said he would be able to appeal to moderates and conservatives there. He noted that he was already doing well in New Hampshire polls. And he predicted that when the campaign moved to Florida next March, either Senator Marco Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush would be forced from the race.
“It was a pretty good analysis,” said Jim Talent, an adviser to Mr. Walker and a former senator from Missouri, who attended the meeting. “He’s up on the strategy.”
To say the least.
As Mr. Walker, 47, prepares for his formal entry into the presidential contest, he has brought on a campaign manager, a pollster and a group of press aides. But he has not hired a strategist — because it might be needlessly duplicative: Those who know him well say that Mr. Walker has always been his own.
To think like an operative, after all, is to find a way to appeal to the political marketplace at a given moment, to devise a way to win. But a fixation on salesmanship can also lead to shifting on issues, something Mr. Walker did this year when he moved to a harder line on immigration to align himself with conservative primary voters. And by embracing the language of the abortion rights movement in his re-election commercial last year, he opened himself up to complaints from abortion opponents that he had changed his tone, if not his tune.