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Scott Walker has led his state from 11th to 44th in job creation, designed a health care plan that will cost Wisconsinites millions and spent much of his term embroiled in a campaign investigation, but he’s still a frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

A Walker 2016 candidacy sounded like a fantasy penned by Ayn Rand when Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball named the governor the frontrunner for the nomination. But the union-buster’s trip to Iowa over the weekend suggests such speculation has to be taken seriously.

The Hill‘s Cameron Joseph reports:

While the beltway presidential buzz has focused on Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), Walker’s admirers say his record as a conservative warrior, folksy Midwestern demeanor and big fundraising connections could make him a contender.

“Gov. Walker has a lot going for him and he’d be a very appealing candidate in a state like Iowa for the caucuses,” says Bob Vander Plaats, an influential social conservative kingmaker in the state. “Not only is he right on a lot of issues, he’s been very bold and courageous on his leadership on a lot of those issues. And being a neighbor to Iowa doesn’t guarantee you success but it certainly doesn’t hurt.”

How you feel about Scott Walker’s record likely reveals where you are on America’s political spectrum.

While the left may see his tenure as proof that austerity and attacking public workers don’t improve a state’s economy, conservative activists love that Walker defeated — with the help of lots of out-of-state donors — a recall effort and thus rubbed his dramatic attack on public-sector unions in labor’s face. Walker even has a narrowly positive approval rating of +4, even though he hasn’t come close to creating the 250,000 jobs he promised.

In his spare time, the governor also defunded Planned Parenthood, rejected federal funding for Medicaid expansion and is now pushing tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich. Basically he’s checked every conservative box and he’s won two statewide elections in an actual swing state.

Though activists rightly see Walker as “sort of a boring version of Michele Bachmann,” he proved in his recall battle that he at least knows how to nod to the center. And unlike Mitt Romney, he has the conservative credentials that will give him the freedom to do so.

The few Republican governors from states President Obama won with positive approval ratings — Chris Christie (R-NJ), +42, Bob McDonnell (R-VA), +32 and John Kasich (R-OH), +16 — all have committed some act of conservative heresy — like trying to get poor people health care, compromising on something or hugging President Obama. Wisconsin’s governor isn’t wasting his political capital trying to get immigration reform passed, and he doesn’t waste his time positioning himself against fellow Republicans as Cruz and Paul do.

Scott Walker is an ultra-orthodox conservative with a passion for taking on unions that extends back to his first bill as an elected official. That’s a passion he shares with many of the right wing’s biggest donors. And if they have their way, what happens to America after 2016 will resemble what’s happened to Wisconsin since 2010.

AP Photo/Morry Gash

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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.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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