by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Vanilla is the most popular ice-cream flavor in America, not because it is the best (that would be coffee) but because it is the least objectionable. Put another way, vanilla is the most acceptable to the most people; it’s not many people’s favorite, but nobody hates it.
And that’s why Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is the vanilla candidate.
A new Des Moines Register poll has Walker in first place — narrowly — among likely Republican caucus-goers. With Mitt Romney included in the poll, Walker was the respondents’ first choice with 15 percentage points. Kentucky senator Rand Paul was second with 14 percentage points and Romney third with 13. With Romney out, Walker rose to 16 percentage points and Paul to 15. First place in a tightly packed field is better than any of the alternatives, but it’s not that big a deal this far out.
The big deal is the vanilla factor (which sounds like a terribly boring spy novel). According to the Register story that accompanied the poll, 51 percent of caucus-goers want an “anti-establishment candidate without a lot of ties to Washington or Wall Street who would change the way things are done and challenge conventional thinking.” Meanwhile, 43 percent prefer a more establishment figure “with executive experience who understands business and how to execute ideas.”
Walker is in the golden spot. He can, like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day listening to Andie MacDowell explain the perfect man, reply “that’s me” to almost everything Republicans say they want. Executive experience? Challenge conventional thinking? Anti-establishment fighter? “Me, me, me.”