“I was enthused when Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan because I thought that was a signal that this guy was getting serious, he was getting bold,” Walker said on Friday. “I just haven’t seen that kind of passion I know that Paul has transferred over to our nominee.”
Then in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday”, Walker said he wanted “to see fire in the belly” of Romney, adding: “I think you’ve got to get off the heels and get out and charge forward.”
This isn’t the first time Walker has publicly questioned the approach of the Romney campaign. Back in June at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, Walker asserted that “[Romney's] got to have a simple message of not only why we need to replace the current occupant in the White House, but also why he would be better.”
For a campaign that has struggled to stay on its preferred message over the last few weeks, Walker’s latest bit of armchair quarterbacking isn’t likely to elicit much positive reaction from Romney world. But, that he is willing to offer his criticism so publicly — and so close to an election — is worth further explanation.
“It’s something that a number of us have been scratching our heads about for a few months,” said one GOP consultant who has closely tracked Walker’s career. “I don’t know what the end game is here.”
The simplest answer is that politicians act political. STUNNER. But, there are also a few other slightly more nuanced explanations for why Walker has emerged — or installed himself — as the elected official most willing to critique his own team.
Here are four:
1. He believes it: Walker’s first few years in office suggest he is committed to principle at (almost) the expense of his job. One way of viewing his willingness to call out Romney’s campaign for alleged missteps is that Walker is a true believer in the conservative cause and is simply compelled to make suggestions in hopes of helping the GOP ticket win.
2. He’s protecting Paul Ryan: It’s no secret that Walker and Ryan are close. (Who could forget the shot of Walker crying as Ryan spoke at the Republican National Convention last month?) In Walker’s comments on Friday he all but said that Ryan was being misused by the Romney campaign and that they had to let Paul be Paul. Walker could be doing a bit of political wing man duty for Ryan here — ensuring that if Romney goes down to defeat, Ryan’s 2016 prospects aren’t tarnished by the loss.
3. He’s protecting himself (for 2016): Walker became a major conservative hero this summer when he beat back organized labor’s attempt to recall him. And, while he has largely avoided talking openly about running for president, he’s not exactly gone Sherman-eque about the possibility either. “I’d like now and into the future to play a bigger role not only in Wisconsin and the Midwest, but nationally,” Walker told Politico in June. “I’d like to have an impact.” Putting himself front and center as a leading critic of the way Romney is running his campaign positions Walker to be the face of the “I told you so” crowd in four years time if Romney loses.
4. He’s protecting himself (for 2014): Walker faces what will be an incredibly high profile re-election race — particularly if he continues to intimate he might run for president — in two years time. To win, he’ll need to convince the same independent/unaffiliated voters who went for him in 2010 and the 2011 recall to do so again. What better way to do that than cast yourself as the guy who told Mitt Romney he needed to run a more issue oriented, positive campaign?
What’s the real reason for Walker’s prominence as as a Romney critic? Probably a little bit of all four of the factors mentioned above. But whatever the reason, Walker’s outspokenness has emerged as a fascinating subplot in the broader 2012 presidential race.