Conservative calls on Scott Walker to step aside and let Kleefisch write the next budget

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

An influential Wisconsin conservative is calling on Gov. Scott Walker to step aside and allow Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch to write the state’s 2017–19 biennial budget. Walker’s term ends in 2019.

An opinion piece appearing in Right Wisconsin, an e-newsletter produced by influential right-wing political observer Charlie Sykes, argues that Walker is unlikely to run for a third term in 2018, while state Republicans who do run will have to contend with the 2017–19 budget hanging over their heads. The article underscores lingering internal divisions created by Walker’s battle with GOP lawmakers in creating the 2015–17 budget.

Preparing the next budget would be a “huge boost for Kleefisch in preparing for a possible GOP primary in 2018,” writes George Mitchell. “It would allow Kleefisch to work with Republican legislators in setting an agenda” that “could still exploit the important successes of Walker’s term without being weighed down by the baggage of more recent events.”

Mitchell, a leading advocate for voucher schools in Wisconsin, has been a substantial contributor to Walker’s campaigns since 2009.

“To put it mildly, Gov. Walker’s standing in Wisconsin politics is far removed from the heady days of June 2012 or even November 2014,” Mitchell observes. “Barring a stunning turn of events, a lame duck budget coming from his desk in early 2017 could become a free-for-all. The big loser would be Republicans running for election in 2018, starting at the top of the ticket.”

During Walker’s presidential run, Kleefisch has become increasingly more visible, often acting as an effective stand-in for the governor when he’s out of state. Once dismissed by Walker as a political lightweight, Kleefisch has emerged as a promising political contender.

Mitchell’s article goes so far as to suggest that the governor “could resign next year, either because he is the Republican presidential nominee or because he concludes that his days of political effectiveness in Wisconsin are over. “

Mitchell’s proposal comes at a time when Walker’s approval rating in the state has fallen below 40 percent for the first time and his presidential campaign has proven lackluster at best, embarrassing at worst.

Numerous flip-flops and gaffes, along with shallow debate performances, have toppled Walker’s standing by 15 points in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first political caucuses on Feb. 1, 2016. The surprising popularity of reality TV celebrity and real-estate tycoon Donald Trump has also been a major force in sucking the air out of Walker’s campaign and those of his competitors.

Winning Wisconsin’s neighboring state is essential to Walker’s campaign strategy.

Walker dismissed the importance of polls this early in the election cycle, noting that Ronald Reagan was “something like eight points (behind) six days before the (1980) presidential election” on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“So for us, polls are going to go up, they’re gonna go down,” he said.

But maybe Walker can take heart from recent indicators indicating that Trump appears to have peaked. On a political prediction market run by CNN and Pivit, Trump’s odds of becoming the GOP presidential nominee tanked from 20 percent to 12 percent between the Sept. 16 debate’s start and its end, according to Politico.