As quickly as the government shutdown ended, political pundits instantly began weighing in on who “won” and who “lost” during the 16-day standoff between Democrats and the Republicans. To be honest, it’s difficult to see how any Republican could be described as a winner, but that doesn’t stop the media from trying to pick winners and losers.
The general consensus is that Speaker of the House John Boehner was a big loser. Initially, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was tabbed a winner for striking a deal, but the fallout from conservatives is intense, and then there is that Ohio River project that runs through McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. Conservative activists are already calling it the “Kentucky Kickback.”
Texas Senate Ted Cruz was the main cheerleader for the shut down. Most publications call it a split decision as far as he’s concerned. He’s a winner because his leadership on this issue invigorated conservative activists across the county, but he also paid a price, especially back home where he has been lambasted by Texas media. Cruz emerges as one of the most polarizing figures in Washington, which hurts his credibility in Washington and among the financiers of presidential campaigns.
A number of publications indicated that Republican governors were big winners because the shutdown fiasco may have left a sour taste in the mouths of voters as far as federal office holders are concerned. This led many in the media to speculate that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have been a big winner, and, a footnote, the the same applies to another Republican Governor, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.
As far as the 2016 presidential campaign goes, I have long thought that a conservative governor may be preferable to voters considering the gridlock in and the unpopularity of Washington. Where I differ with the national pundits is that I don’t think Chris Christy or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have a clear shot at the Republican nomination.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the Republican governor that I have my eye on. While he was hardly mentioned as a winner following the shutdown, if you paid close attention, he handled himself perfectly. As I’ve written before, should Walker seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016, he will be one of the most prepared candidates you will ever find due to his recall election in 2012.
It doesn’t matter if the federal government is functioning or not, dysfunction is always on display in Washington D.C. The 24-hour news media makes it rather easy for the likes of Sen. Cruz or Sen. Rand Paul to quickly enter the national conversation on the issue of the day. However, the advantage that a governor like Walker has is that at the end of the day, he’s going to be able to point to a number of conservative accomplishments.
Amid the government shutdown, Walker penned an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, “What Wisconsin can teach Washington.” In it, Walker talks about how the state he inherited in 2011 had a $3.6 billion budget deficit and an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent. Today Wisconsin boasts a half billion-dollar budget surplus, an unemployment rate that has dropped by 2.5 percent, and the largest rainy-day fund in the state’s history. Over the weekend, Walker signed into law a $100 million school aid program that will reduce personal property taxes in the state.
In his editorial, Walker writes, “Tough but prudent decisions put us back on track. We enacted long-term structural reforms that include allowing schools to bid out health insurance, local governments to stop overtime abuse and the state to collect reasonable contributions for health insurance and pensions — all of which saved millions. Instead of austerity, we chose reform.”
An argument like that will go a long ways in a Republican presidential primary, but Walker has done more than just crow about his recent accomplishments. As the Obama Administration was ordering federal parks to close all around the country during the government shutdown, Walker refused to close federal parks in his state on the grounds that most of the parks that the National Park Service had ordered to be closed receive most of their revenue from local tax payers.
Walker even found the time during the government shutdown to distance himself from Mitt Romney, a prerequisite for conservatives who are fed up with the last two Republican nominees. In his new book, “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge,” Walker writes about how he encouraged Romney to do more to connect with voters. He says Romney never responded.
It’s doubtful that any governor has been challenged in his or her first term like Walker has been challenged. Yet, through it all, he continues to produce results. It’s hard to believe that a state like Wisconsin is functioning as well as it is today considering how deeply divided it was just a few years ago. Isn’t that the type of leadership we so desperately need in Washington?
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