Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign found itself playing omnidirectional defense yesterday when its new social media consultant Liz Mair was attacked from all sides, leading to her resignation less than twenty-four hours after she joined the nascent campaign.
Mair’s chief offense was some tweets from earlier this year, in which she disparaged Iowa’s closely-guarded spot as the nation’s first primary; the GOP’s Iowa chair harshly criticized her statements. But she also withstood stinging criticism from the conservative flank of the GOP, with Breitbart’s Matt Boyle assailing her over her support for the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill, which he termed a pro-amnesty position.
As Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel pointed out this morning, these two are not as disconnected as they might seem: Iowa’s status as gatekeeper gives disproportionate influence to conservative and staunchly anti-immigration figures like Representative Steve King (R-IA) — exactly what Mair was bemoaning. Walker’s performance at King’s Iowa Freedom Summit launched him into the top tier of GOP candidates, but it also coincided with his switching positions on immigration to oppose what he now calls “amnesty.” Mair’s statements can be easily read as preemptive critiques of just such a purity test.
Thus a simple hire becomes representative of the GOP’s quadrennial tangle, cursed with a primary process that controversializes everything from a candidate’s major positions through staffing decisions. (Romney hire Richard Grenell suffered a similar fate as Mair’s in 2012.) This often occurs to the detriment of the nominee’s general election performance. Recall, many of Mitt Romney’s statements that dogged him in the 2012 general — “severely conservative,” “self-deportation” — were made in the primary debates. Not for nothing, but self-deportation was about immigration as well.
As a new figure in national politics, Walker is especially vulnerable to this rock-and-a-hard-place routine. Thus he took heat from conservatives yesterday for hiring Mair:
Kind of hilarious that @ScottWalker campaign hired a social media staffer w/o vetting their social media accounts. How wd he do nominees?
— Matthew Boyle (@mboyle1) March 17, 2015
…and then took heat from more establishment voices for firing her:
Scott Walker stood up to thousands of union thugs, but folds in the face of a few Iowa GOP turnspits? Great campaign message.
— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) March 18, 2015
Mair had previously seen Walker through his campaign to beat back efforts to recall him in 2012, meaning he just axed a trusted deputy as he gears up for his first national campaign. In the process he managed to piss off both sides of his party. If Walker remains competitive in the 2016 GOP primary, there will be more of this to come.
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