Exit Walker?

by Reihan Salam

The New York Times is reporting that Scott Walker is hours way from ending his presidential campaign. Having admired Walker as governor of Wisconsin, where his deep knowledge of state and local issues served him well, I was disappointed by his presidential campaign. In a perfect world, Walker would have had time to get up to speed on national issues, and to demonstrate his capacity for creative problem-solving. It is often said that governors have an advantage over lawmakers in running for president, as they gain executive experience in the course of doing their jobs. That is certainly true. Yet it is also true that the determined opposition of organized labor ensured that Walker’s tenure as governor left him with little time to breathe, let alone contemplate his position on this or that national controversy. That hurt him. We’ve spent the last few weeks in the Trump vs. Carson phase of the presidential race. It seems that we are entering the Fiorina vs. Rubio phase, when conservatives are thinking harder about which candidate is best positioned to change the direction of the country for the better. And in this next phase of the campaign, substantive questions around economic and foreign policy will become more central.

Could it be that Walker decided that he wasn’t ready for the presidency? There is no doubt in my mind that Walker is an intelligent man who would have eventually devised a plausible foreign policy agenda. In the first weeks and months of his presidential campaign, alas, there was no real evidence of serious thinking on his part on how a Republican president might improve America’s standing in the world, combat Islamist extremism, or address the challenges posed by a China that is both more powerful than in years past and more vulnerable to outright economic collapse. Over the next few months, I suspect that candidates who’ve learned to speak intelligently about these issues will flourish while their rivals will flounder. The foreign policy failures of the Obama years are many (don’t take my word for it), and in the end, I believe that Republican voters will turn to a candidate who can project seriousness and authority on the subject of our role in the world. For all his virtues, Walker was going to have a hard time doing that.

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