Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Meltdown of Scott Walker

Onetime frontrunner for Iowa primary is “finished,” most covering presidential campaign say.

By - Sep 3rd, 2015 11:47 am
Scott Walker's Canadian Border Wall

Scott Walker’s Canadian Border Wall

Wow, was I wrong.

I have long argued that Scott Walker would be a formidable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In March,  I suggested Walker’s seeming mis-steps were actually helping him, and that “the governor’s performance over the last few weeks could be used in a masters class teaching prospective candidates how to rise in the Republican presidential primary.” In April I dubbed him the “anti-Jeb” and “by far” the toughest opponent battling Jeb Bush for the Republican presidential primary.

I was met with doubters among both Democrats (of course) and Republicans saying he had no chance. And right now, their forecasts look a hell of a lot more prescient than mine.

It’s truly mind-boggling to watch how Walker the once-so-disciplined campaigner has come apart at the seams in just a few weeks.

Walker managed to offer three different positions on immigration in just seven days. In response to Donald Trump‘s push to end the 14th Amendment’s mandate that all children born in the United States are automatically granted citizenship, Walker first said he supported the idea. “Yeah, absolutely, going forward.”

He next changed to no position on birthright citizenship: “I’m not taking a position on it one way or the other,” he said.

Two days later Walker told ABC he was not seeking to repeal or alter the 14th Amendment, a trifecta of contradictory positions that earned stories like this.

Walker next called on President Barack Obama to cancel the visit by China’s president Xi Jinping, citing the impact of China’s “manipulation” of its economy on the declining stock market. Precisely how that would improve the stock market was never explained by Walker. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel patiently quoted experts explaining why Walker’s suggestion was very bad policy, and “critics quickly brought up his nine-day trade mission to China in 2013 and pointed to photos of the Wisconsin governor meeting with Xi Jinping touring the country and riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle at a newly opened dealership in Tianjin,” as the Washington Post pointed out.

Beyond its silliness and seeming hypocrisy, Walker’s proclamation could hurt him in Iowa, the one primary he must win. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who could have an impact on the Iowa caucus and seemed to be close to Walker, values his relationship with Xi and farmers in Iowa export millions of dollars worth of soybeans to China each year, the Post noted.

Not long after this Walker also went on CNBC and denied he’s a career politician — though he has been in elected office since age 25 and held office for nearly his entire adult life.

But Walker’s biggest whopper came when asked by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd if he supported building a wall along Canada’s border. Walker said this: “Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire.  They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at.”

Such a wall would run 5,525 miles long.

Undaunted by such geography, Walker later posted Twitter messages that said, “Having a secure border is a legitimate concern for the safety of our nation,” and, “Law enforcement expressed concerns to me about border security. I won’t ignore them.”

The idea set off a storm of media attention and ridicule, with one wag dubbing this the Great Wall of China. Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin called Walker’s suggestion “plain goofy since immigrants are not exactly streaming in from Canada.” Rand Paul called it “a ridiculous notion.”

But to measure just how ludicrous Walker has become, consider not his critics but what his defenders have to say. And no one spends more time promoting and brown nosing Walker than conservative radio talker Charlie Sykes, who devoted an entire column to explaining how Walker’s idea — which Sykes called “Trumpian, in its impracticality and absurdity” — was actually caused by, ahem, a verbal malady. According to Dr. Sykes: “part of this may be due to Walker’s unfortunate verbal tic where he answers questions with what appears to be an affirmative before giving his intended answer…So, no, that is not an actual endorsement of building a 5,500 mile wall along one of the most peaceful borders in the world.”

Uh huh. Except that when Walker gave his intended answer, he explained, at length, that he had concerns from people in New Hampshire and that he therefore saw this as a legitimate issue to look at. And he then followed this with twitter messages reaffirming the need to have “a secure border” with Canada. That’s not a verbal tic, that’s a massive and uncorrected brain meltdown. Within a day, Walker did back off from the position, but that didn’t help matters much.

A far better explanation for Walker’s mis-steps was offered by the New York Times, noting Walker’s decades-long tendency to operate as his own campaign manager has served to “reinforce an impression… that he is a political lifer with a shallow grasp of policy who lacks the gravitas the presidency demands… 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.”

That tendency to shift on the issues was always present in Wisconsin, as I’ve written, but was consistently disciplined and strategic. When faced with the fast-paced tumult of a presidential campaign, and the exponentially larger national press corps, Walker hasn’t been able to control his message and keeps getting caught leaning this way and that to impress reporters and audiences.

But that has been compounded recently by the rise of the Donald, who threatened to steal victory in Iowa, the one state Walker has to win, and so the governor has become increasingly desperate to out-Trump Trump. When faced with a preposterous question like building a wall along Canada, Walker’s first instinct is: what would the Donald do, I can’t say no and then have Trump blast me, better to say I’m open to the idea.

Indeed, GOP candidate Carly Fiorina, while expressing caveats, said she would be open to the Canadian wall if necessary to stop illegal immigratation: “I mean, if that’s what it took to do it, I would do it, north or south.”

We have reached the point where the most ridiculous ideas will be considered by someone in this GOP carnival; the operant rule: when in doubt, pander. And for someone like Walker, a campaign operative first and a policy person a very distant second, that will likely cause continued flubs and flip flops.

Walker’s problem isn’t a verbal tic but a Trump obsession: the governor’s flub on immigration, the absurd contention that he wasn’t a career politician, the silly saber rattling on China (a country Trump has repeatedly promised to get tough on), the Great Wall of China — it’s all campaign strategist Walker’s attempt to stem the Trump wave.

What we’re seeing is the desperation of a candidate who once had a huge lead in Iowa and was second place nationally in polls, looking to regain his edge. The man who sold himself as “Unintimidated,” the rock solid man of conservative principles, “has pandered to Iowa voters, prioritizing issues like immigration and the nuclear deal with Iran that were never core to his appeal, and let his campaign be drawn into the day-to-day absurdities of the Trump circus,” as Peter Suderman writes at, the free market publication that should be a champion of Walker.

“Walker is running a pandering, cringe-worthy campaign marked by a consistent inability to clearly articulate, and stick to, his own positions,” Suderman goes on. “He has not only shifted his policy positions, he has shifted his character—and in doing so, he has undermined his essential appeal.

The latest poll finds Walker polling at just 5 percent, tied for eighth place with Mike Huckabee. In Iowa, where Walker has focused his campaign strategy and resources, a Monmouth University poll this week put him in fifth place, with 7 percent, behind Trump, Ben Carson, Fiorina, and Ted Cruz.

“Ask anyone in a television greenroom or reporters scrum on the campaign trail and they will tell you flat out: Scott Walker is finished,” writes conservative columnist S.E. Cupp.

The obit is perhaps premature, but Walker may need a miracle to rise from his current slough of despair.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

37 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Meltdown of Scott Walker”

  1. Mike says:

    Once the north and south walls are built, how do we protect the coasts? Surfs up dude!

  2. Frank Galvan says:

    It’s almost as if the man had never graduated from college.

  3. Dave says:

    I expect an apology from every person that voted for this fool not once, not twice, but three times to be Governor of our (former) great state. I don’t know how many times we tried telling you what an idiot and an embarrassment this little man was.

  4. GT says:

    After the first sentence I thought this article was going to be about the arena.

  5. Ryan says:

    As a moderate conservative I can see it’s becoming increasingly likely that that a Democrat will win the Governor’s mansion back in 2018. Can we just ask you don’t put up an idiot (most of the Milwaukee contingent in the state senate/assembly, particularly Lena Taylor and others), an empty suit (Barca) or at outstate Democrat (since most of them are ambivalent or even hostile towards Milwaukee for some reason).

    Can someone convince John Norquist to re-enter public life and become Governor? Someone who supports urban life and isn’t scared to fight for it instead of the others listed above who have no vision.

  6. AG says:

    Bruce, you’ve managed to disappoint me again. Disagree with Walker, fine… don’t like his policies or positions… fine. Ridicule him for gaffe’s, I’d expect a pundent to do so. But to pretend his gaffe’s are actual positions? At least pretend like you don’t have bias… at least every once in a while.

  7. Matt says:

    Dave – I apologize, I did it and am embarrassed and ashamed. The middle class needs to stand up and not let the rich divide us up on issues that do not matter while they take all the money.

  8. Wis Conservative Digest says:

    First time out in the big party, he has done well, gaffes when you have tot talk to people all day every day are part of politcal life, he is at least honest about them, compared to the lies of Hilary and co. Sanders is honest. Reagan, Nixon, Bush, Clintons, when not lying or chasing women, also made gaffs. Takes awhile to get into the big time. Trump is one big gaff.

  9. Bruce Murphy says:

    AG, it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone wouldn’t know Walker later backed down from the Canadian wall idea, but just to be clear I’ve added a line noting that.

  10. MilwaukeeNative says:


    A gaffe is mispronouncing a word or scrambling facts. These are all policy policies–just idiotic ones.

    Walker is twisting in the wind because he HAS NO CLEAR CENTER on any policy issue other than killing unions and letting pregnant women die if their lives are at stake (wait–those are purely to get votes too).

    This may have been too easy a story to write, but it’s not like Bruce is out to skewer Scotty.

    Sadly for Wisconsin, his plummeting stock as a brand may mean may not get million-dollar offers to be a DC lobbyist or talking head when his WH hopes are finally dashed. Then he may try to run again for Guv here. But by then maybe a few more voters will have woken up…

  11. Marie says:

    Andy Borowitz nailed it in a New Yorker column: He’s now a “distressed asset.” But even hedge-fund moguls may not want to touch him…

    WCD: Are you saying Reagan, Nixon & Bush were all chasing women (news to me) or was that a gaffe?

  12. Marie says:

    Just realized I made a gaffe in my above comment…”He’s” of course refers to Walker and not Borowitz, whom I consider a national treasure!

  13. AG says:

    Bruce, even in your response you talk as if he actually advocated for a northern wall. When I read the text, I don’t see him saying he wanted a wall on Canada’s border. I can see how it was twisted to that… and he clearly didn’t word it well… but you can’t really believe he wants/wanted or mentioned at all, a wall on the northern border.

  14. busynurse says:

    Walker is one emperor who has NEVER worn clothes.

  15. Gee says:

    Walker is unprincipled, and he has had the advantage of also-unprincipled but dominant media operation (Sykes, et al.) not doing its job of journalism. That would have required researching and reporting his contradictory claims that consistently have been untrue.

    Now, some in national media are actually doing so, doing journalism (if some do so owing to their own unprincipled reasons, claiming to be reporters but actually acting as partisan pundits). As a result, Walker is exposed as not only unprincipled but also . . . not unintimidated.

    Instead, he is obviously intimidated by Trump. And the gov’s got nothin’ else. Yeh, he’s finished. And in Wisconsin, too.

  16. Bruce Murphy says:

    AG, yes, his response in plain English says he thinks the idea is worth considering.

  17. tim haering says:

    “If you do not finish your training, help them you may, but save them you will not.” – Yoda, after the Freedom Summit, advising Walker to finish a degree in international affairs, polish his public speaking, get a sense of humor and a touch of humility, maybe try some improv and complete another term as governor before running for president.

  18. Marie says:

    Tim, It would be a miracle if Walker does even two of those things. Though Walker is polishing his public speaking, he still cannot think on his feet.

    He’s also not interested in helping–or saving–anyone but himself.

  19. Bruce Thompson says:

    Michael Kinsley famously defined a gaffe as when a politician tells the truth. Perhaps another term is needed for Walker’s odd flubs.

  20. AG says:

    Bruce Murphy, you’re right. It is just like when Obama said, in plain English, he was speeding up training of ISIL troops.

    Or… maybe sometimes people misspeak.

  21. Rita Wittwer says:

    I am saddened by the notion that the author thinks there is a difference between the Wisconsin Walker and the national Walker. The only difference is the press.

    He has been given a pass at every turn in Wisconsin. ALEC has ruled Wisconsin from day one of his governorship through ultra conservative, corporate supported policies. No one has held him accountable for anything. Not a single in-depth interview. It is beyond me why no one saw this coming.

    Unfortunately, we’ll get him back so that he and his miserable allies can continue to beat the crap out of the working stiffs (men and women) until there is no life left in them.

  22. David Ciepluch says:

    Walker’s outcome on the national stage was predicted and expected as Rita states and is no surprise at all to many of us. Media locally and state-wide has handled Walker and other politicians with kitten gloves. Many of us knew him for what he has always been – severely intellectually stunted, lacking real knowledge and curious about learning and new ideas, indoctrinated with extreme right-wing agenda and provided with ALEC laws written by corporations, lazy, divisive, vindictive, deceitful, a proven serial liar by Politifact, and excels with his self-described Masters Degree in snake-oil sales and ultimate stooge for his benefactors, the Kochs. Walker’s prescription is a dead end path for honest hard working citizens that deserve so much greater than this scourge and blight on Wisconsin.

    That Walker made it to Governor and mentioned as Presidential material is an Wisconsin and national embarrassment. Walker has exceeded the “Peter Principle” many times over. I do not care one bit for Trump, but it is possible that he serves a purpose with his farce, exposing boring stunted dullards like Walker.

  23. Barb- West Bend says:

    “But Walker’s biggest whopper came when asked by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd if he supported building a wall along Canada’s border. Walker said this: “Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire. They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at.”‘

    I have read this quote of Gov. Walker in newspapers but Walker never says how many people expressed those “legitimate” concerns to him (10, 100, 1000?) and what those concerns are? What is the threat from Canada? Is there enough evidence that their concerns are serious enough that we should consider building a border wall? Or is Walker engaging in fear mongering.

  24. Will says:

    It seems consensus on this message board is that Walker has finally been exposed, which I disagree with. Walkers fall can be attributed to one thing and one thing only – Trump. Trumps the reason Walker went off message with the Canada wall, etc. This whole “Walker has been exposed for what we knew all along” argument is wishful thinking, as those who supported those policies pushed by Walker still do. Its just they have found a newer candidate to support.

    @David Ciepluch
    “Media locally and state-wide has handled Walker and other politicians with kitten gloves. Many of us knew him for what he has always been – severely intellectually stunted, lacking real knowledge and curious about learning and new ideas,”

    This is gibberish. Walker handled with kid gloves? Delusional. Also, could your critiques about Walker be any more vague?
    “Severely intellectually stunted”? The only thing stunted is your ability to craft a decent argument using facts.

    On a side note, having heard Walkers full interview with the now infamous Canadian wall comment, if someone claims that Walker was actually advocating building the wall they are full of it.

    And finally, Trump ’16

  25. Marie says:

    @Will, a lot of people are rooting for Trump to stay in the race, especially comedians, for the YUGE fodder he provides. The fact that a reality-TV celebrity and billionaire blowhard has been leading in the polls says much about our culture–which will be analyzed for years.

    The GOP establishment, many of whom thought Scooter had potential as a crossover candidate, are now trying to figure out how to DUMP TRUMP! But the Donald LOVES the limelight and will not drop out for a long time–and without exacting whatever he demands…. A columnist recently wrote that Trump does not want to be president but he loves being a power broker. He’s also our P.T. Barnum. So be careful what you wish for.

    But heck, I enjoy Trump’s buffoonery much more than Walker’s pretzel-y parsing and outright lies…Must-see TV!

  26. Will says:


    My whole thing with trump is, if not trump than who? The corrupt, perhaps criminal millionaire in Clinton? Another bush? Dear lord I’d prefer Brett michaels to either. Trump is a proven global deal maker and he’s right that our trade agreements stink and that we have no immigration plan in place that is enforced. Fixing these problems will benefit no one more than the middle and lower class and hurt no one more than corporations and the 1% by the way. Meanwhile ex walmart board member and Goldman Sachs crony wants open borders out of compassion(ya right). There is absolutely nothing funny or stupid about trump. He is one of the most established businessmen in American history and all anyone talks about is how dumb he is, I just don’t get that. So walker is an idiot for never going to college but even though trump went to Wharton he’s still dumb….His brand is a global icon and all anyone says is how he will be laughed out of the global stage. Meanwhile, Clinton is a proven failure as SOS (Russia, Libya, Yemen) and she’s the hawk on global policy?….huh? It seems his biggest problem is that he is not PC but when u dissect the liberal arguments against him they are all smoke and no fire. He doesn’t hate Mexicans he wants to enforce immigration laws which coincidentally affect Mexicans the most.

    Anyone without an agenda can see this. The problem is that both republican and democrats have an agenda and the herd follows them both blindly. I could go on but my point is that so far all the people who have called trump too dumb to be where he is are the only people looking dumb as trump continues to rise

  27. Matt says:

    Will – what about Bernie sanders. Listen to him speak he is the one really looking out for the middle class. Maybe his is the one who can finally convince non rich white middle class republicans to vote in their interest instead of some “trumped up fear”.

  28. David Ciepluch says:

    They are my thoughts, observations, and perceptions about Walker that are shared by more than half the voting population and supported by current poll numbers for WI. Walker as a serial liar is a fact proven with Politifact data. He is an embarrassment to the human race is a fact.

    Some other facts are that Walker policies have led WI down a path with the #1 decrease in median family income in the nation, a top ten state in people leaving the state, and a bottom tier state in jobs. Walker led the founding of WEDC as a scam to loot taxpayer funds for his friends, at the expense of cutting public employee wages by 15% and robbing from education. Walker has led WI in a downward spiral. This is a fact. Half of WI people are repulsed and disgusted by him and what he represents – corruption and corporate written laws from ALEC. This is a fact.

  29. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    David summed up a lot of my thoughts- there isn’t a lot that Walker hasn’t done here that wasn’t known by those who paid attention in Wisconsin. But much of the state’s media had a vested interest in propping up Walker, getting clicks on their news sites, and taking Walker’s ad money, so they covered up for Scotty, and watered down the absurdities that he would say into “he said, she said” spin.

    Walker’s exposure was easy to predict, and if the Wisconsin media had acted in the public interest of telling the truth instead of being “stenographers to the stars”, Walker wouldn’t have been able to slip by either the 2012 or 2014 elections, and this state wouldn’t be the embarrassed wreck it is today.

    Walker’s finally being held responsible for his idiocy, awful behavior, and failed record, but when will the Wisconsin corporate media suffer the same fate?

  30. RAFE says:

    Funny to watch you libtards grasp at straws so early.
    He is obviously as crooked as the rest of them but over a year out from the election he is far from out of it.

    Here’s a news flash for you: until we get the money out of elections we will continue to get the crooks we deserve. Trump is looking better all the time. So far he doesn’t appear to be anyone’s puppet.

    You may now resume your unicorns & fairies fantasy….

  31. Heywaitaminute says:

    Trump: (v) 1) To expel hot air from a pie hole. 2) To commit serial bankruptcy. 3) To pander to xenopohobes and the ignorant. 4) To squander an inheritance. 5) To fail any and all tests of humanity and civic responsibility.

  32. Sue says:

    Scott Walker is failing on the national level because he’s had no practice dealing with the media. He doesn’t know how to handle follow-up questions because he doesn’t get them. Editorial boards, with one very recent major exception, do not demand that he explain himself or his actions. He comes from a state where he can actually say “As you I didn’t know anything about that” and end the discussion without a challenge.
    Don’t feel bad. Charlie Pierce has already apologized to his readers for thinking Scott Walker was the 2016 Dreamboat. It’s natural to think that the national press is no different than the Wisconsin press, and a lot of those folks are similar. But there are a lot more of them nationally, they’re being courted by a lot more people promising to screw over everyone just like Scooter, and other candidates have either more practice or more natural ability. Scott needed to shine but like the little boy who’s been told too often that he’s the very very best, once he got out in the real world proving it turned out to be a little difficult absent actual evidence.
    Scott’s pride, nurtured and protected as it has been, is going before an embarrassing fall.

  33. Troy says:

    I’d like to build a wall between Iowa and Wisconsin please…I’d like to keep the people that voted for him for Governor out of Iowa. For those Wisconsinites that have always been against walker….. head through Minnesota and then to Iowa….you will likely classify as refugee status.

  34. A busdriver says:

    Bottom line Scooter is not /will not ever be ready for prime time. Get him out of Madison before the state sinks further in the ditch he & the Koch bros. have dug & Scooter readily jumped into. He is no leader he is a follower led by his ego & anyone that can’t see that is dumber than Scooter. He’s guilty of believing the lie others told him. The voters are guilty of not believing facts. The proof is in all the problems created & exacerbated by his policies & practices.

  35. judie says:

    I think that the Recall was somehow tampered with by BIG MONEY There is hardly no one in Wisconsin that likes him So where did these “Votes” come from????? He is just a low down dirty Crook and so are The Croth Brothers!!!

  36. roz says:

    thanks bruce, a good article and helpful to put all of walker’s ridiculousness in one place.

  37. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Scott was completely eclipsed by Trump taking all of the energy in the campaign. Scott and Rubio look a lot like college students running for school office, that really hurts them when they are up on the dais with all of those heavyweights.
    As for Trump, be careful what you wish for, Trump is beating Hillary by 5 points. He is getting almost 35% of Black vote, and more than half of the Hispanic vote. Why? Barkley said it best: “WE have been voting for dems for 50 years, we were poor then and still poor now.” Blacks, Hispanics are not stupid. The white, male, liberal, racists that run Milwaukee, have promised as the national left has done, nothing for the inner city and worse they screw them to the wall. No plan to reduce crime, teach kids to read but millions for trolleys and billionaires from NY.

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