“We built the machine that we needed to get a governor in just phenomenal shape to take a stage in a presidential debate,” Wiley said. “I think sometimes it's lost on people the largeness of the job. I think people just look at it and say, ‘Wow! Yeah, you know, it's like he's a governor and he was in a recall’ and blah, blah, blah — he’s ready.
“It's just not like that. It is really, really difficult. ... I'm just saying, you know, like it's a f---ing bitch, man. It really is.”
But Walker had a Walker problem: He just wasn’t ready for the national stage. It was often overlooked that just five years ago, he was the Milwaukee County executive. As he began the presidential campaign, according to advisers, he knew little about issues like immigration, the Export-Import Bank and foreign policy. Walker’s campaign brought in experts to brief him on those subjects. Aides said he enjoyed the briefings and worked hard to become fluent in policy issues.
But his lack of knowledge showed — like when he said that Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire striking air traffic controllers was the most significant foreign policy decision of his lifetime. Yet expectations were sky-high for the governor, and his early appearances did little to lower them.
Wiley blamed the size of the campaign partly on Walker’s newness to the national spotlight. “It takes a lot to build a campaign to run for president, especially around someone who is introduced to a new set of issues,” Wiley said. “Foreign policy — brand new. And just the dynamics of the federal issues are different, obviously. I mean, my God, this guy is a machine — I mean he really, truly is. But that takes staff, it takes time to do that. And we built the campaign that we needed to get him ready.”
“Everything was rolling, and then we just a hit a wall,” Wiley continued. “So, you know, I'm not sure there's anything we could have done differently. I can go back and say, ‘OK, you know, could I have done without like three of the research kids who are continuing to fill in the Walker record?' Maybe. Sure. But then maybe Walker research suffers.”