With Chris Christie still stuck in a traffic scandal at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, the donors and Main Street Republicans who make up the bulk of the GOP center-right establishment can be forgiven for feeling a little nervous.
If Christie fades, this cohort, which boosted both Mitt Romney and John McCain to the nomination, fear that a Tea Party-fueled candidate will take over the party, leading to a drubbing at the hands of the Democrats come November 2016.
Thus hopes have turned to Jeb Bush as a possible savior, even though the Florida governor has been out of office for seven years. It’s why Paul Ryan is practically being dragged into the race, even though the Wisconsin congressman and former vice-presidential nominee seems set on staying in the House. It’s why there have even been rumbles that even Romney is considering another go, his two-time rejection by the American public notwithstanding.
So without other options, can the establishment learn to love Scott Walker?
The controversial Wisconsin governor is slated to come and hobnob with top New York donors this spring, and he has quickly become a top draw for radio and TV bookers now that Christie has gone mostly silent. And although Walker’s public persona as a cultural warrior for the Tea Party became cemented after his efforts to strip the union public sector of collective bargaining rights, for many, his appeal actually lies in the fact that he may be one of the few Republicans running who can sway independent voters.
“Look at the guy—he got elected in Milwaukee County twice, then governor, then a recall election,” said one former top Romney bundler, who added that even before the Bridge controversy there were doubts among his fellow Republican money men and women that Christie had the right temperament for the job. “He’s battle-tested.”
For the wealthy, New York metropolitan region backers of Romney and McCain, Walker is something of an off-fit. Romney is the ex- venture capitalist with the two Harvard degrees could speak their language on slopes of Deer Valley, while Walker never finished college. In fact, he made it a point of pride (and a point of campaign rhetoric) to remind people he brought brown-bagged ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch and drove a Saturn with 100,000 miles on it.
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