After spending much of the year riding high in Iowa, Governor Scott Walker ended the month of August with his campaign losing ground with many potential voters.
Less than two months after formally launching his campaign, recent polls show support for the Republican presidential hopeful falling among Iowa Caucus voters. A Des Moines Register-Bloomberg poll released over the weekend had Walker in a tie for third, with just eight percent of voters supporting him. A Monmouth University poll released Monday had Walker at fifth. In both polls, real estate developer Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson led the GOP field of 17 candidates.
University of Wisconsin Madison associate journalism professor Mike Wagner said the rise of Trump as a frontrunner is a big factor in why Walker and many other candidates are struggling. “Donald Trump is taking up a lot of the media oxygen,” Wagner said. “In fact, his rise in the polls is almost perfectly correlated with the amount of media attention he’s getting.”
Wagner said that can set up a situation where Walker and others are clamoring for media attention, so they are not forgotten by voters. However, he warned they also need to avoid attracting negative coverage, because it risks making a bad impression with voters. “There are 17 Republicans running for president, and to get air time…you’ve got to be doing things that attract news media attention, so you can introduce yourself to the voters. That’s really hard to do right now.”
Also hurting Walker is his shifting positions on immigration, where he’s had difficulty clearly communicating whether or not he sides with Trump on eliminating birthright citizenship, along with controversial remarks about calling on the White House to cancel a state dinner planned for the Chinese president’s visit later this month. Wagner said failing to clearly define his positions can earn Walker a “flip-flopper” label, which can make it even hard to build support.
Despite the missteps, Wagner noted that the Iowa Caucuses are still months away and that none of the eventual nominees in the past several elections were currently leading at this point in those races. He cautioned “this process is a long process,” and pointed out that Walker still has strong support in many Republican circles that could help carry him through to the spring.