Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is unique among the Republican hordes running for president: He is deeply polarizing within his own state, and almost certainly the most polarizing governor in the country.
Most Wisconsin Republicans love him, even if his numbers have declined a bit lately, while most Democrats can’t stand him. And therein lies both the promise and the peril of Governor Walker’s presidential candidacy, which launches on Monday.
The question, though, is how Walker will be perceived on the national stage. Most voters don’t pay attention to Wisconsin politics, and the fact that he’s a divisive figure at home doesn’t automatically translate nationally.
Still, Walker starts his campaign with a deep reserve of goodwill among the key segments of the GOP, both in Wisconsin and nationally: the “establishment,” social conservatives (he’s the son of a Baptist preacher), tea party conservatives, and libertarians. Walker leads polls of Republicans in neighboring Iowa, averaging almost 18 percent in a field of 16 candidates, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Walker “has to win Iowa,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “It all comes down to Iowa.”
Walker’s top competitors for the nomination are the two Floridians, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. “His biggest problems are Bush’s money and Rubio’s compelling narrative,” says Mr. O’Connell.