With slim lead, Walker playing it safe

Governor Scott Walker, fighting for his political life in advance of the recall vote on June 5, appears to be keeping a low profile in order to minimize the chance of a game changing mistkae. Walke is in a tight race with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, with polls giving the Republican governor anywhere from a 4 to 8 point lead.


His engagements in public venues have tailed off. Retail events have given way to rallies with supporters at campaign offices. Walker's passive debate performance Friday, where he seemed more comfortable withstanding rhetorical blows from Democrat Tom Barrett than landing many of his own, offered more signs of his play-it-safe homestretch approach. The governor even passed on asking Barrett a direct question - usually a ripe opportunity to place an opponent on defense for a perceived weakness.

While his communications director told POLITICO he had no scheduled campaign events during the holiday weekend, the governor ended up popping up at several rallies with supporters. Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews described as many as seven different weekend stops as impromptu additions to the calendar.

In a phone interview with POLITICO on Monday, Walker pushed back on the implication he was playing it safe by sticking to carefully managed events among allies.

"On the weekends we go to [headquarters'] just to get out the volunteers and go by and try to thank them. Throughout the campaign, I've been at farms, I've been at factories, I've been at small businesses. Most of the factories I go to, it's all the employees, they don't distinguish who may or may not be a supporter," he said.

This is a sound strategy, given the circumstances. Going on the attack opens up the possibility that you can be misinterpreted, or the press can twist your words to alter the meaning and intent of your criticism. A non-gaffe can become a gaffe in no time. Not taking any chances in this regard -- especially when all the signs currently point to victory -- is just smart campaigning.

The debate didn't seem to help Barrett, despite his aggressive tactics. And with enthusiasm, money, and some momentum on his side, Walker will try to coast home with a victory.