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3/30/2015 5:08 am  #1

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker Point G.O.P. to Contrary Paths

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker Point G.O.P. to Contrary Paths

HUDSON, N.H. — As Jeb Bush mingled with Hispanic workers on a company tour a few weeks ago on his first trip here as an all-but-declared candidate for president, he was able to guess the region in Colombia where one woman was born just from hearing her accent.

That night, he told Republicans that their party had to “go out and reach out to people of every walk of life, not with a divisive message but one that is unifying.”

A day later, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, making his own maiden New Hampshire swing, proudly donned a hat given to him by a gun-rights group and, highlighting his frugality, bragged about the sweater he had bought at Kohl’s for a dollar.

He recounted the central lesson he had taken from his rancorous clashes with liberal protesters and public-employee union members in his state: “Instead of intimidating us, it reminded us exactly who elected us and the job they elected us to do,” he said.

The first votes of the primary season will not be cast until the Iowa caucuses next February, but Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, and Mr. Walker are fast becoming the most prominent exponents of two dueling visions of how the Republican Party can retake the White House in 2016 — by extending its reach, or by energizing more of the sorts of people who have sided with Republicans in the past.

The two men share many policy positions, but offer strikingly divergent messages and are pursuing very different electoral strategies. And their political approaches seem inextricably linked to their biographies.

Mr. Bush, a privileged scion who married a Mexican woman and boasts of being bicultural, reflects his polyglot adopted hometown, Miami, and state. He is telling Republicans, in effect, that they must accept a changing country: that the path to the presidency will be found through appealing to voters who may not look like them, and with a standard-bearer whose state and immediate family resemble tomorrow’s America.

Mr. Walker, a small-town minister’s son who met his wife, a Milwaukee native, at a Wisconsin barbecue joint, is a product of one of the most politically and racially polarized regions of the country, metropolitan Milwaukee. He has succeeded by confronting his adversaries and by generating soaring levels of support from his fellow Republicans in a state they have failed to carry in a presidential race for more than three decades. The party’s way forward, by Mr. Walker’s lights, lies in demonstrating toughness in the face of intense opposition from the left and mobilizing those who are already inclined to support conservatism.

“I think Jeb is counting on the party’s hunger to win, and Walker is counting on their urge to fight,” said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and longtime party strategist.

Neither may ultimately become the nominee in what is shaping up as an unusually crowded and volatile campaign. But their opposing political identities offer a distillation of a wider debate roiling Republicans, the conclusion of which could shape the party for years to come.

“One of them wants to re-energize the party from within, and the other one wants to re-energize the party from without,” said Alex Castellanos, a veteran Republican consultant.

Applied to the electoral map, the inside route would most likely mean that Mr. Walker would try to capture a band of Midwestern and Great Lakes states filled with the sort of working-class white voters he reflects. He frequently notes that Republicans have not carried Wisconsin since 1984, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he could. He also would surely eye four other Rust Belt states President Obama carried both times: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Bush would almost certainly set his sights on the increasingly diverse states Mr. Obama carried at least once in his two elections: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia. The voting-age population in each of those states is at least 25 percent nonwhite, and in some of them substantially higher.

Mr. Bush’s calculus is based in part on the 2012 election: Mitt Romney received 17 percent of the nonwhite vote, meaning that if the next Republican nominee does no better, he or she will have to receive 65 percent of the white vote to win, said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

Mr. Bush’s message is to challenge and persuade his own party. He sticks to his support for an immigration overhaul and backs the Common Core education standards, unpopular stances with many conservatives. Facing criticism and trying to convert skeptics rather than bending to the will of the party base, Mr. Bush has said, are a sign of “backbone.”

Mr. Walker, by contrast, aims to reinforce what Republicans believe and reassure them that they are right. He has changed his views on both immigration and the Common Core, realigning himself with the party base and suggesting that this shows he is responsive to voters.

Their language differs noticeably, too, on racially charged issues.

Mr. Bush proudly tells of having ended racial preferences at Florida’s universities, but in the next breath adds, as he said in February, that the state wound up with “more African-American and Hispanic kids attending our university system” than before.

Mr. Walker wins applause by noting his efforts to require drug tests of people receiving public assistance, and uses language reminiscent of old, loaded appeals about indolent welfare recipients. Answering a question in Iowa about food stamps, he turned to a metaphor about his sons’ high school football days.

“In all the years I watched them play football,” he said, “there never once was a guy that got called in the game who was sitting on the bench with his helmet off, with his feet up.”

Whether trying to restrain the influence of public-sector unions or to hold those on welfare accountable, Mr. Walker is practicing the politics of scarcity, said Matt K. Lewis, a conservative writer.

“This approach lends itself to tribalism,” said Mr. Lewis, who is working on a book about how conservatives can adapt to the future. “It’s ‘If those other people take what we have, we can’t have it.’ ”

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But if some on the right view Mr. Walker’s approach as dispiritingly dark, many conservatives see Mr. Bush’s inclusive tone and willingness to offer illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status as more Pollyanna than panacea — especially given polls showing Hispanics are more liberal on other issues.

“His argument is essentially that these groups that have moved away from Republicans are going to care more about immigration than health care,” said David Frum, an author and speechwriter in President George W. Bush’s White House. “His electability stands or falls on the truth of that claim.”

Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker differ even on political polarization itself — in ways that make it sometimes sound as though they are speaking past the voters to each other.

Mr. Walker explains how his standoff with protesters was a way of reminding him who had voted for him and what he was elected to do; he named his book on the affair “Unintimidated.” Mr. Bush suggests that his own ambition is to tame political polarization to address the country’s thorniest issues.

“I’m tired of the partisan divide where nothing happens because we’re just in this massive food fight,” Mr. Bush said this month in South Carolina. He added, “People that want to consider running for office have to stop preying on people’s fears and stop dividing us and start forging consensus so that we can move forward.”

Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, said Mr. Bush “is running a general election right from the beginning because he doesn’t want to get to a place where the nomination is not worth having.”

“And Walker wants to appeal to the base voter who is looking for an alternative to the establishment candidate,” Mr. Madden said.

The contrast plays out in ways small and large. Mr. Bush, in the early going, has had to fire an aide to his political action committee who made insensitive comments about women and blacks; an aide to Mr. Walker was forced to quit after she criticized the conservative-dominated Iowa caucuses.

More significant, their approaches to the primary campaign could also be instructive about how each would attempt to win a general election, and the risks they choose to take.

“One is a populist strategy that doubles down on turning out disaffected white men,” Mr. Lewis said. (An adviser to Mr. Walker did not directly dispute this assessment, suggesting that Mr. Walker would perform well with middle-class voters, whose support for Democratic candidates has dwindled in the last few presidential campaigns and who have strongly supported Mr. Walker in his gubernatorial races.)

“The other is a gamble that conservatism can win in the free market of ideas amongst a diverse and changing 21st-century America,” Mr. Lewis said of Mr. Bush’s approach.

Of course, Republicans may not be strictly bound to an either-or proposition.

Winning back the Great Lakes states could prove as decisive as reclaiming the increasingly diverse states that Mr. Bush is focused on, said Mr. Ayres, the pollster. He said that was an argument for a hybrid candidate who could do both — like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whom Mr. Ayres expects to work for if he runs for president.

Republicans may ultimately choose such a third way. But if it comes down to Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker, the choice will prove revealing.

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

3/30/2015 7:30 am  #2

Re: Jeb Bush and Scott Walker Point G.O.P. to Contrary Paths

The Republicans at one time presented a united front, as opposed to the Democrats who always were all over the place ! 

"Do not confuse motion and progress, A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress"

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