Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is accustomed to harsh criticism. Usually it comes from his political left – workers angry about union busting, environmentalists angry about giveaways to energy companies – and not from the political right.
But on Wednesday, after news broke that Walker had fired a new social media director apparently to placate the Iowa Republican Party, the heaviest incoming fire came from his right flank.
The employee in question, Liz Mair, is a well-known and respected operative who has worked for Walker before as well as for the Republican National Committee. Shortly after her hiring was announced, though, tweets she’d posted earlier this year criticizing political events in Iowa, including the state’s first-in-the-nation primary status, were dug up. It wasn’t long before state party officials, including Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, were insulting her on the record as “shallow and ignorant” and calling on Walker to give Mair “her walking papers.”
Mair announced her resignation early Wednesday morning.
A top political strategist for Walker, Rick Wiley, said in a statement, “We accept those who have a variety of viewpoints on issues but what we ultimately must have is absolute respect for people across the country. Our American Revival is an organization formed to promote bold reforms across the country and we’re going to continue advocating for those ideals.”
The backlash from conservatives, though, over the Mair decision has been swift. Writing at The Federalist, Sean Davis went after Walker for what may seem a pattern of concessions designed to help him secure victory in primary voting next year. (Walker has changed his views on federal ethanol mandates, which are popular in corn country, and has changed his stance on immigration, bringing him more in line with Iowa’s heavily conservative caucus goers.)
“It wasn’t enough that Walker flip-flopped on ethanol to gain the favor of the ethanol lobby,” he wrote. “Now he and all the other candidates are apparently required to run all their staffing and contractor decisions by the head of a party that’s only delivered the state to Republicans once in the last 30 years.”
Davis actually saved most of his bile for Iowa’s Republican Party officials. “This isn’t even a fight about policy,” he wrote. “Tech vendors and social media staffers have no say whatsoever when it comes to advising a presidential candidate on policy. That’s not how campaigns work. This farmland fatwa is especially absurd given the record of Iowa Republicans when it comes to picking presidents. They’re straight-up awful at it.”
Writing on the National Review website, Jonah Goldberg described Walker’s apparent termination of Mair as a bad omen. “If Walker is the guy I hope he is (I’ve been a booster), he won’t just have to take on his enemies, he’ll have to take on his friends, too… Isn’t that the point of the anti-establishment movement on the right?”
He added, “I get that Walker needs to win Iowa and that staffers aren’t more important than the candidate. But principles are. If Walker didn’t want a critic of the Iowa caucuses on his payroll he shouldn’t have hired one. But he did. And throwing her under the bus for this suggests not only that he’s got some problems getting ready for prime time, it also suggests he can get rolled by the Iowa GOP establishment. What happens when he gets to Washington?”
The ultra-right wing website Twitchy linked to a dozen tweets by well-known conservatives blasting Walker’s decision.
Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel wrote that the loss of Mair not only deprives Walker of her and her team’s experience, but sets up an unfortunate comparison with at least one of his GOP challengers.
“The hire of Liz Mair was supposed to connect Walker to a network of journalists, bloggers, and influencers,” he wrote. “Instead, Walker ended up stoking a mini-crisis in the must-win caucus state, and ending the crisis by giving those influencers their third fresh example of him buckling under Hawkeye pressure. The contrast with Jeb Bush, who's been telling crowds that he won’t change his stances on Common Core or immigration, does no good for Walker.”
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