Beth Reinhard reports on what I’ve been hearing from various politically-connected friends: Scott Walker, the combative Republican governor of Wisconsin who emerged as a hero on the right after curbing the collective bargaining rights of public employees and beating back a labor-backed recall effort, is emerging as a serious contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. As of last month, a Marquette University survey found that Walker had a 51 percent approval rating, which is respectable given Wisconsin’s political coloration. But as Walker’s prospects improve, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s prospects appear to be doing the opposite. Mired in controversy, Jindal, who unliked Walker has already secured reelection, is laboring under a 38 percent approval rating, and his national profile is oscillating wildly. Keen to criticize the congressional GOP and to call for reform and renewal immediately after Mitt Romney’s defeat, albeit it in blandly unspecific terms, Jindal has just published a Politico op-ed that is truculent in its insistence that rather than rethink their policy commitments in light of the challenges facing middle-income households, Republicans ought to “hold fast, get smarter, get disciplined, get on offense, and put on your big boy pants.” Walker is no less conservative than Jindal. During the 2012 presidential campaign, for example, he recommended that the Romney campaign promise much deeper tax cuts. Yet he also comes across as more consistent and less eager to please than Jindal, who seems to be masking his greatest asset, which is his rare intellect.
The Republican 2016 contest already has a rough shape: several would-be candidates are crowding the rightward end of the spectrum (let’s say Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker), one or two are presenting themselves as problem-solving pragmatists with establishment support (Chris Christie and possibly Jeb Bush), and one or two are hovering in-between (this is where I suspect Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan would wind up, though I suspect Ryan is too wise to run). My gut sense is that Walker and Christie are the ones to watch.