Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was considered by some, at best, to be an educated guess as a dark horse Republican nominee for President.
After last weekend’s Des Moines Register and Bloomberg poll in Iowa, Governor Walker is not a dark horse anymore.
Gov. Walker made a splash in the polling, capturing 15 percent of the state's Republican voters. US Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky finished second with 14 percent. Out of all the potential candidates in the field, Mr. Walker was the only person who has not run before or has a father who has tried a run at president, like Senator Paul.
Some have attributed Governor Walker's good showing in the poll over the weekend to a speech he made in front of a conservative crowd at the American Freedom Summit last month. At that function, Mr. Walker touted his credentials from the bills he passed in traditionally Democrat-led Wisconsin, according to The Hill. In his home state, he has served two terms as governor and survived a recall election in 2012.
The recall stemmed from the governor's insistence on weakening public-sector unions through "Act 10," which left public sector unions with little power to collectively bargain. In turn, membership in unions for government workers has diminished by 60 percent since 2012, according to the New York Times.
"Before the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, one Republican activist summed up Gov. Scott Walker’s challenge this way: 'He doesn’t make the flashbulbs go off,'" Slate wrote. "But at the end of the marathon day of speeches before conservatives, the Wisconsin governor emerged as the leading light."
Mr. Walker's emergence is well-timed because the poll was taken right after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney bowed out of the Republican fray, and also when the ideological divide within the Republican party between the hard right and the establishment Republicans is as wide as ever, according to NBC.
Perceived GOP heavyweights like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who have been vying for big time donors, did not show well in the Des Moines Register poll. Mr. Bush captured only eight percent of the vote and only earned a favorable/unfavorable rating of 46-43, compared with 58-21 percent for Mr. Walker.
Governor Christie may be in trouble with Iowa caucus goers because he posted a reverse favorable/unfavorable rating over the weekend at 34-56 percent. If Mr. Romney had stayed in the race, Mr. Christie would have finished eighth in the poll.
What may help Governor Walker is that he is viewed by some in the party as being able to bridge the internal schism within the GOP, according to NBC. Conservatives respect how he proved himself against the government employee unions, while running a northern and traditionally Democratic state.
"He's an evangelical Christian with a strongly conservative record. But his main weakness is that his lack of charisma could make it difficult for him to stand out in a crowded field,” Andrew Prokop wrote for Vox. “So, the fewer high-profile candidates there are, the better Walker's chances are to establish himself as the main Bush alternative.”