It’s a political hazard to start thinking about a presidential race while you still have your day job. Ask Mitt Romney, whose approval ratings plummeted as he plotted a 2008 presidential campaign. Or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), whose sky-high popularity dropped as he spent more time away from Louisiana. Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D) often drew comparisons with Bill Clinton — that is, before he was blindsided in a 2002 reelection upset against Sonny Perdue.
— That’s the situation that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is in, as he faces another reelection campaign (sans recall) while his name is regularly being touted as presidential timber. His new book, “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge” is designed to enhance his national profile, but it’s unlikely to convince Wisconsin voters that he’s committed to serving out a full second term.
— Don’t assume Walker is a shoo-in for reelection. Instead of catering to the base, Dems recruited a moderate businesswoman, Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke, who has the ability to self-finance a campaign. A new Marquette Law School poll shows just how competitive the race could be. Walker’s job approval rating is at 49%, and he narrowly leads the little-known Burke, 47-45%.
— To be sure, Walker is a very intriguing dark-horse presidential candidate for 2016. He’s an executive with a record of principled conservative governance in a Democratic-leaning state. Unlike the conservative rhetoric of a Ted Cruz, Rand Paul or Marco Rubio, he can point to tangible accomplishments. He’s one of the few prospective candidates who could generate tea party excitement along with boasting establishment cred.
But Walker has to get to the starting line first. And if he takes his reelection for granted in the face of a credible Democratic challenger, that would be a recipe for trouble.