Walker tries to regain rhythm

Wisconsin+Governor+Scott+Walker+waits+to+give+a+speech+at+the+Lincoln+Dinner+in+Des+Moines+on+Saturday%2C+May+16%2C+2015.+Walker+attempted+to+connect+to+the+Iowa+audience+by+speaking+about+his+time+spent+living+in+the+state+accompanied+by+a+photo+of+himself+as+a+child+holding+an+Iowa+state+flag.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FSergio+Flores%29
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Walker tries to regain rhythm

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waits to give a speech at the Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Walker attempted to connect to the Iowa audience by speaking about his time spent living in the state accompanied by a photo of himself as a child holding an Iowa state flag. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waits to give a speech at the Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Walker attempted to connect to the Iowa audience by speaking about his time spent living in the state accompanied by a photo of himself as a child holding an Iowa state flag. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waits to give a speech at the Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Walker attempted to connect to the Iowa audience by speaking about his time spent living in the state accompanied by a photo of himself as a child holding an Iowa state flag. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waits to give a speech at the Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Walker attempted to connect to the Iowa audience by speaking about his time spent living in the state accompanied by a photo of himself as a child holding an Iowa state flag. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

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Scott Walker’s trip through the wilderness.

By Brent Griffiths
[email protected]

They could not be more opposite: one is a career politician who has been running for office since he dropped out of college, the other a billionaire businessman who has flirted with running for years.

Despite their differences, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has watched his “front-runner” status, and the more important media attention, be snatched away by former “Apprentice” star Donald Trump.

“Clearly, the Trump factor has knocked all of them off their game and in particular Walker,” said David Redlawsk, a former University of Iowa political-science professor who cowrote an extensive book about the Iowa caucuses. “The media shifts to something interesting, and polls kind of say the same thing.”

Walker once led Iowa by double-digits, but in a recent CNN/ORC poll, he was stuck in third place behind former neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

The loss of limelight is compounded by Walker’s still trying to find his niche in the Republican Party.

Like a hectic driver rushing home, political experts say Walker must find his lane or risked getting left behind by candidates who are honing in on their audience.

“[Walker] seemed to have position as someone who straddled economic and social conservatives, but all these others folks made a grab for specific elements and have left him standing in place,” said Dennis Goldford, a professor of political science at Drake University.

While Walker performs a Shawn Johnson-style split to appeal to the different wings of the Republican Party, the other Republican presidential hopefuls have a fixed gaze on just few groups of people.

Trump, Carson, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina are all making plays for the outsider crowd Walker has made overtures to in the past.

Goldford said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is making a clear play for social conservatives in Iowa as evidenced by his recent “rally for religious liberty” and endorsement from radio host Steve Deace. He anchored radio coverage of Bob Vander Plaat’s July Family Leadership Summit in Ames, which attracted 10 GOP presidential contenders — ditto for former caucus winner Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

If the squeeze was not tight enough, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are making plays for the “establishment wing of the part,” Goldford said.

The standing is not new for the two-term governor.

Before Iowa Rep. Steve King’s Iowa Freedom Summit, Walker was far from being considered the leader. But the January speech struck a chord with Iowans as the 47-year-old related tales of how he bested unions and survived a recall.

“His strength is that he has been governor and put conservative polices into effect,” said Bob Anderson, a former chairman of the Johnson County Republicans and former member of the state Central Committee.

Anderson said Trump’s candidacy would have to speak for itself, but Iowans like candidates who “get things done.” But recent surveys of the state say those who may not show up the caucuses have other priorities as well.

In the CNN poll conducted from Aug. 7-11, Walker was stuck in the rest of the pack with 544 likely Republican caucus-goers. Based on a 4 percentage point margin of error, there is no statistical difference among Walker, Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Bush, Rubio, and Rand Paul.

For all the talk of a collapse though, Redlawsk argued that the Wisconsin governor is right where he wants to be.

“Polling in third or forth and coming in first or second is what you want to do,” he said. “As a front-runner, you might fail to meet expectations.”

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