On Monday morning, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stepped forward as the latest Republican to begrudgingly embrace Ted Cruz as the future of their party.
Strategically, it made sense. Ahead of next week’s Wisconsin primary, the endorsement from a governor popular among Wisconsin Republicans is a promising play to draw votes from Donald Trump. Walker has also been outspoken in his dislike for the real estate developer ever since the two clashed early in 2015.
But Walker’s endorsement of Cruz — like most endorsements of Cruz — is far from a match made in heaven.
On immigration, while both men advocate strict opposition to citizenship for illegal immigrants, Walker also backed measures to limit legal immigration in the run-up to announcing his own presidential bid. Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, at one point advocated for the expanded use of H1-B visas and for providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal residence, though he said the latter was a “poison pill” to make the overall bill in question unpalatable.
Cruz has since, as a presidential candidate, completely disavowed anything close to legal status.
Walker and Cruz also collided on the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Whereas Walker conceded the fight and recommended conservatives focus on other issues, Cruz called the Court’s decision “indefensible” and reiterated states’ rights to define marriage of their own accord. Cruz has a kinship with hardline evangelicals and social conservatives that Walker, despite being the son of a Baptist minister, has never been able to match.
With the endorsement of Walker, who holds an 80 percent approval rate among his state’s Republican voters, Cruz is poised to win the state. According to the latest Marquette University Law School poll, he holds a commanding lead at 40 percent. Trump trails behind at 30 percent, while John Kasich sits in third place at 21 percent.
For most Wisconsin Republican officials, Cruz is simply the most palatable candidate, particularly in relation to Donald Trump. Matt Batzel, conservative strategist and executive director of American Majority Wisconsin said, “I’m a core Republican and I stand for these core principles that [Trump] doesn’t represent.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the state’s largest newspaper, described Trump as “a man with no political center who has given the hardest problems facing the nation no more than a passing glance.”
Similarly, it has been Trump’s success, not Cruz’s, that has forced Walker’s hand. Walker has no natural ally in either of the two frontrunners, but he has certainly picked the item on the menu that’s easier to swallow.
Not that that’s his line. In his interview with Wisconsin radio personality Charlie Sykes — who just days ago confronted Donald Trump live on air — Walker assured would-be Cruz voters that he “was supporting someone, not against something or against someone,” and also that “this is not a default.”
But does it count if you have to say so?
He wouldn’t be alone in supporting Cruz because, well, Donald Trump. Earlier this month, Lindsey Graham, who had previously compared endorsing either Trump or Cruz to choosing between being “shot or poisoned,” said he would be formally endorsing Cruz, his “15th choice” of all the Republicans originally running for the nomination.
Photo: Scott Walker watches his wife Tonette address the crowd as he stands backstage looking at a TV monitor before going out to formally announce his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during a kickoff rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, July 13, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young