There is modest irony in the fact that Scott Walker hopes to revive his collapsing campaign for the Republican presidential nomination with a scheme to follow the traditional Labor Day pivot point of the electoral schedule with a new push to position the Wisconsin governor as the most ardently anti-union presidential candidate since Robert “Taft-Hartley” Taft mounted his failing bid for the Republican nomination in 1952.
In fairness to Taft, the late Ohio senator was never so unsympathetic to working Americans as Walker. But he had attached his name to a legislative assault on the internationally respected right to organize unions and to collectively bargain—an initiative that invited Southern segregationists to enact so-called “right to work” laws that dramatically undermined the Congress of Industrial Organizations’ “Operation Dixie” and related efforts to develop multiracial economic and social cooperation in the region.
Of course, Walker will not run as well as Taft did in his failed-but-credible attempt to wrestle the 1952 nomination from Dwight Eisenhower—a mainstream Republican who, as president, would renew the party’s historic commitment to respect, and in many instances, aid unions.
Walker’s campaign is in crisis. At the start of August, he was widely considered to be one of the top three contenders for the Republican nomination. His poll standing was such that Fox News positioned him next to emerging front-runner Donald Trump on the stage at the first debate. But Walker’s performance in that debate was dismal. His answers were vapid, and inquiries from the Fox hosts about his ever-changing positions and empty promises embarrassed a candidate who has always relied on Midwest-nice media to let him avoid questions about his competence.
As a result, Walker’s poll numbers quickly plummeted nationally and in the first-primary state of New Hampshire. More recently, he has tanked in the essential first-caucus state of Iowa.
Walker’s circumstance is so dismal that pre–Labor Day polls had him falling to eighth place in the national competition, with just 3 percent support. He is now perilously close to dropping below the line of qualification for first-tier in the upcoming debates. If that happens, Walker could find himself debating Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal rather than Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.
DC-insider Politico’s website convened a panel of analysts to assess how the last few months had gone for the presidential contenders. The consensus was that, among the Republicans, Walker was “the biggest loser of the summer.” Noting the ridiculous title of Walker’s ghost-written campaign book, one political seer concluded that “‘Unintimidated’ has given way to ‘uninformed’ and ‘unprepared.’”