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By Stuart Rothenberg, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is widely viewed as a top-tier hopeful for the GOP presidential nomination. But it’s less clear he has the right profile to knock off the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Walker’s strength in the nomination race comes from his positioning in the Republican Party.

The governor’s proposal limiting public sector employees’ benefits and collective bargaining rights — and his eventual victory over their unions — gave him an important credential with Republican voters of all stripes, and the combination of a conservative agenda and a less militant style makes him one of the few GOP hopefuls with potentially broad appeal within the party.

Walker, who has said he will make his announcement after the state passes a budget, wouldn’t start off as the favorite of most tea party conservatives or libertarians or establishment types, but he may well be able to attract some support from each of those constituencies. More importantly, as candidates drop out along the way, he has the potential ability to reel in those Republicans looking for an acceptable (even appealing) second or third choice.

Since he has never run for president before, we don’t yet know how Walker will handle the media scrutiny or perform in debates. But he should be competitive in fundraising, and his political team is experienced. Early polling certainly suggests he starts off as one of the favorites in the Republican race.

But while the two-term governor of Wisconsin definitely has a path to the nomination, the road after that is less certain.

Obviously, winning the nomination in a crowded race — and defeating top-tier candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida — would give Walker added stature and prove his ability as a campaigner. But it would not resolve all doubts about his prospects in the fall election.

The big question is whether the Wisconsin Republican could renovate the party’s current image as a party of older whites (and particularly older white men), enabling him to attract non-whites and younger voters who have grown to feel unwanted by, and uncomfortable in, the GOP.

Walker won’t be 49 years old until six days before Election Day 2016, which would make him the youngest Republican nominee since Richard M. Nixon in 1960. His age contrast with Clinton, who will turn 69 fewer than two weeks before the election, could make him look even younger.

That certainly is a plus for the governor. But it may not be enough to attract 18- to 29-year-old voters.

The Wisconsin governor is a mainstream conservative whose views on major issues are completely in sync with his party. That won’t have great appeal to voters, including younger ones, who didn’t support the past two Republican nominees.

In other respects, it is also difficult to see Walker’s profile as having appeal to voters who didn’t warm up to Mitt Romney or John McCain. That is, the Wisconsin Republican doesn’t exactly run counter to type when Republican presidential nominees are considered.

Demographically, Walker is the quintessential white-bread candidate in the field — a straight arrow from the Upper Midwest whose father was a minister and whose family roots are in the United Kingdom and central Europe. He should do well with white voters, but that is no longer automatically a route to victory in a presidential race.

Romney won 59 percent of white voters in 2012 but lost the election, and it is difficult to believe Walker can grow that percentage against Clinton in 2016. The only Republican to do better among white voters than Romney was Ronald Reagan in his 1984 re-election (66 percent). In 2004, George W. Bush won 58 percent of white voters.

On the surface, at least, Walker doesn’t have particular appeal to Hispanics or Asians, two groups that are increasingly important in the electorate. Nor has he shown marked strength among African-Americans.

Walker drew 10 percent of black voters in Wisconsin in his 2014 re-election race, not significantly above McCain’s 9 percent showing against Barack Obama in Wisconsin in 2008 or Romney’s 6 percent showing in the state in 2012. And Walker wasn’t running against an African-American opponent.

Of course, if Walker can make the general election into a referendum on Obama’s failings or demonize Clinton the way Democrats did Romney, then the Wisconsin Republican certainly could narrowly win the general election. As a governor from the upper Midwest, he has plenty of assets in a national contest. At this early point, it would be ridiculous to dismiss Walker’s chances of winning the White House next year.

But it is also true that Wisconsin’s chief executive will have to overcome unfavorable demographic changes in the electorates of eight or 10 key states in order to win 270 electoral votes. And it is far from certain that he can do that given his background and positions, as well as his party’s current image among some key demographic groups.

(c)2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo via Wikicommons


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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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Donald Trump Now Leads An Authoritarian Movement

Politico Magazine published an article Thursday that perfectly embodies the failures of tabloid-style political journalism to address the fundamental dangers facing the country: “145 Things Donald Trump Did in His First Year as the Most Consequential Former President Ever.”

“In ways both absurd and serious, the 45th president refused to let go of the spotlight or his party and redefined what it means to be a former leader of the free world,” the article sub-headline states, sitting above a colorful image containing a photo of a smiling Trump and images that have defined his post-presidency, including his second impeachment, golf clubs, and a vaccination needle.

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