(Rich Galen, Mullings.com) – Sometimes, when a candidate drops out of a race – typically a race for his or her party’s nomination for President, there is at least a touch of Schadenfreude in most of us. Even – maybe especially – toward candidates we actually like.
Schadenfreude is one of those combo-German words that means finding joy in the failure of others.
In modern life, it is more closely defined as a condition in which you not only want to do well, but your friends have to fail to fully enjoy your victory.
It is not something we share with others very easily.
When Gov. Scott Walker announced quite suddenly he was dropping out of the race, it should have created the perfect soil on which a Schadenfreude seed would land, germinate, and grow into a tall tree of ill will.
Largely because there is very little not to like about Scott Walker. He is, relative to me, a young man – 48 years old as of this writing. He is successful in his chosen field – Governor of a fairly important state – Wisconsin. Good family man from all appearances – been married for 22 years with two sons.
What’s not to like?
I met Walker once, to my knowledge. He was the Milwaukee County executive thinking about running for Governor. I was doing a county fundraiser somewhere in Wisconsin. He showed up, worked the crowd, was introduced and duly applauded. I don’t believe he actually got into the race that year, but the next time around he ran and won.
I remember thinking – and probably said aloud during my remarks – that having a young, Conservative Republican as County Executive of Milwaukee County was not just hard to believe; it was impossible to believe.
In places like Milwaukee, the Republican candidate is often the long-time chairman of the county executive committee who is appointed by acclimation to fill the ticket so that for the rest of his life he can be introduced as “The Former Candidate for County Executive.”
Not Walker. He ran and won. Then ran and won again. And did it a third time. And this was after serving four terms as a member of the State Assembly.
He wasn’t quite finished winning elections. He won the Gubernatorial election in 2010. Survived a recall election in 2012 (as part of his battles with the Wisconsin public employee unions) and won re-election in 2014.
All that to say that Scott Walker was not a babe-in-the-woods when it came to politics. He was a hardened veteran.
And yet …
Reed Galen has drilled down into the details of what he believes went wrong with the Walker campaign in this week’s Seven Things We Learned from the Scott Walker Campaign but, I’m sticking with my shorthand:
It’s one thing to be the star in the new production of South Pacific at the Nassau County Coliseum on Long Island. It is something else again to be able to take over the stage on Broadway.
It may be less than 30 miles from one venue to the other; but it might as well be on the other side of the Milky Way.
The laser-focus on a serious presidential candidate can be withering. Dan Quayle won two elections for U.S. Senate in Indiana; but when the same facts that Hoosiers were aware of, but discounted, were painted in glo-light purple on the national stage it was a completely different view.
More recently, Rick Perry came out of arguably the most successful run as Governor of Texas since the Alamo, but was the first to drop out of the race this year.
Most assuredly, Donald Trump was a major factor – maybe, THE major factor – in Walker’s inability to maintain his early success. And maybe, his campaign outstripped its supply lines as it grew more quickly than the fundraising could support.
There are reasons that so many people – fully qualified people – run for public office but don’t get to the finish line first.
Sometimes they are quantifiable. Often they are not.
In that Scott Walker is not unique.
What is unique about Scott Walker is that for Republicans he does not provoke that very familiar (if uncomfortable) feeling of Schadenfreude.
In fact, as I wrote in the post-Reagan Library debate, “Midwestern nice did not serve him well.”
Mr. Galen is a veteran political strategist and communications consultant. He blogs at www.Mullings.com.