My article from earlier this week in which I argued that Republicans should nominate Scott Walker as the GOP standard bearer in 2016 should he win re-election next week was discussed on Wisconsin Public Radio on Tuesday.
The program in question was The Joy Cardin Show. Cardin was discussing the Wisconsin gubernatorial election with her guest Mordecai Lee, a former Democrat state legislator who is a Professor of Governmental Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In response, Lee said that if Walker were re-elected next week that he would be “a top-tier candidate” for the 2016 GOP race. However, he also said that if Walker lost to Mary Burke, it wouldn’t necessarily impede his presidential aspirations. Lee argued that Rick Santorum won the 2012 GOP Iowa Caucus despite losing his Senate seat six years earlier. He also pointed out that James Polk received the Democratic Party nomination for President in 1844 despite being ousted as Governor of Tennessee. Indeed, after serving a two year term, Polk lost both the 1841 and 1843 elections to James C. Jones of the Whig Party.
The Santorum example would have been more compelling had he won the GOP nomination. As for Polk, it must be remembered that he did not seek his party’s nomination for the White House in 1844 and was only recruited when the convention was hopelessly deadlocked and even then urged his fellow Democrats to give Martin Van Buren another chance. Indeed, Polk wasn’t even present at the convention. He was notified of his nomination by way of telegraph. Polk responded to his nomination as such:
It has been well observed that the office of president of the United States should neither be sought nor declined. I have never sought it, nor should I feel at liberty to decline it, if conferred upon me by the voluntary suffrages of my fellow citizens.
Those aren’t the words of someone who wanted to be President more than life itself. Polk’s fellow citizens conferred the presidency upon him by a narrow margin against Henry Clay and only served a single term in office. I doubt we will ever see a scenario in which either Democratic or Republican Convention will select its nominee in the manner in which Polk was picked. Could you imagine a presidential candidate not being present at his or her party’s convention? After all, conventions are essentially coronations. The real battles are fought in state caucuses and primaries.
The presidency may have something no one sought in 1844. The same cannot be said 170 years later.
While it is possible that conservatives could rally around Walker as a martyr like symbol if he were to lose next week, I think Walker’s presidential prospects are more feasible if he wins rather than loses. But at least people are talking about the possibility of a Walker presidency.