Lefty Blogger Jonathan Chait: Does Obama Want Republicans to Nominate Walker?

Richard Nixon’s campaign did what it could to make sure the Democratic party didn’t nominate its strongest presidential candidate in 1972, thereby facilitating Nixon’s re-election. President Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016, but New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait speculates that Obama is trying to smooth Hillary Clinton’s path to the Oval Office by nudging Republicans into nominating Scott Walker.

In a Thursday post, Chait mentioned a report that Obama has told former advisers that “securing the administration’s legacy requires electing a successor (i.e., Hillary Clinton) who will cement rather than roll back his accomplishments” and noted that on Thursday, Obama traveled to Wisconsin, Walker’s home state, to announce his plan for expanded overtime pay.

Chait went on (bolding added):

It is possible that these two stories have nothing to do with each other. But it’s also possible they have everything to do with each other.

Obama’s executive order is the latest, and probably last, functional expression of his belief that the diminishing bargaining power of the workforce has played a major role in the struggles of the middle-class over the last generation. That belief once defined the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, but it has gained increasing support from the centrist wing as well…

The Republican Party stands totally opposed to this entire line of thought, and nobody symbolizes that opposition more than Scott Walker…Walker has singularly embodied the conservative view that prosperity requires crushing labor’s bargaining power, a conviction he has followed with a determination and success that has made him the darling of the Koch brothers and other elements of the Republican fund-raising base.

But the donor base has its worries about Walker. They may appreciate his slavish adherence to their economic ideology, but they worry about his nearly as slavish adherence to the Republican base’s social ideology…The Republican donor class may be willing to support politicians who endorse those views if that’s what’s needed to elect politicians who can implement their economic program, but they are not willing to sacrifice electability to do so. And Republican strategists, report Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, increasingly fear that Walker is crafting a profile helpful in a primary that will leave him vulnerable in a general election campaign.

The Obama administration is hardly hiding the political undertones of their announcement. The location and subject matter of the president’s speech are obviously designed to draw maximum ideological contrast between himself and Walker. The likely effect of such a trip will surely be to elevate Walker’s profile as the anti-Obama, rallying conservatives to his side, thus boosting his prospects of winning the nomination — and, if you share the horse-race analysis of fretful GOP consultants, elevating Clinton’s chances of winning in 2016.

Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats New York Magazine Scott Walker Jonathan Chait Barack Obama Hillary Clinton


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