Noam Scheiber writes today that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and other right-wing Republicans are fighting the most important elections in this cycle:
But consider what happens if Republicans fail to win the Senate, in which case Walker’s re-election may loom even larger. The GOP will be coming off its third disappointing election in four cycles. Some Republicans will insist it’s long past time to moderate the party’s stance on issues like immigration and gay rights, as they did after the 2012 drubbing. But those voices will almost certainly be drowned out by right-wingers who say Republicans haven’t stood firmly enough in defense of conservative principles. And Walker, the governor who managed to destroy the left and live to tell about it in a swing state, will loom as an incredibly appealing model. His brand of aggressively partisan, aggressively conservative politics will immediately vault him to the top tier of presidential candidates for 2016.
Of course, if the GOP loses the Senate and Walker loses, too, I have no illusions that the GOP’s moderate reformers will suddenly win out. The party that rallied around Ted Cruz and ousted Eric Cantor partly over his supposed liberal heresies isn’t tacking to the political center any time soon. But, in a way, that’s exactly the point. What makes Walkerism so dangerous is that it puts a moderate face on what’s actually a pretty extreme set of policies. A politician working from Walker’s playbook can always say he or she is out to save taxpayers money and make government more efficient even as they’re really out to upend a decade-olds arrangement between workers and employers. (If you think Walkerism would stop at public employees unions, I have a beautiful timeshare in Green Bay to sell you...)
But why is Walker in so much trouble, despite surviving his recall election 53-47? Possibly because people really wanted the Medicaid money he turned down:
To get a look at whether a Republican governor’s policy stances matter, I re-plotted some of the relevant polling data. This time, I used two symbols to represent a governor’s stance on Medicaid expansion (and other aspects of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act):
According to these data points, Republican governors who bucked their party’s stance and accepted the policy are faring better with voters—in these races, an average of 8.5 percentage points better.
We've got two months until the election, so a lot could happen. But this is starting to look like the pendulum swinging back to center. And wow, do I hope so, because these right-wingnuts have been so depressing for so long...