Walker looking for his mojo on New Hampshire Harley ride

September 7, 2015
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his wife Tonette look over Jim Woodley's Harley motorcycle before a campaign stop at One Mile West restaurant in Sunapee

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (C) and his wife Tonette (R) look over Jim Woodley’s Harley motorcycle before a campaign stop at One Mile West restaurant in Sunapee, New Hampshire, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

PLYMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Wearing washed-out Levis, fingerless leather gloves and a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, Republican White House hopeful Scott Walker spent Labor Day weekend touring New Hampshire’s 10 counties on a motorcycle trying to convincing voters that he is just like them.

The Wisconsin governor has work to do in the early-voting state. He’s down to seventh place in the RealClearPolitics polling average of surveys in the state, garnering about 5 percent. That’s down from more than 20 percent in late April, when he was leading the field in the state.

So he spent the weekend trying to piece back together a coalition of socially conservative voters in remote towns in the state’s more rural areas, such as at the general store in Washington, New Hampshire, where cell service is nearly non-existent.

Guy Eaton, a volunteer mail carrier, announced upon Walker’s arrival: “Nobody’s been here since Jon Huntsman came here four years ago.” Eaton, the town’s self-described poet laureate, even read a poem dedicated to Walker for the rarity of the occasion. He described for reporters all the publicity that preceded Walker’s visit, regretting the small number of voters who showed up to see him.

Later on his tour, a woman told him, “We don’t get that many [presidential candidates] in Plymouth.”

Several supporters said they worried about his decline in the polls.

But Walker brushed it off. He used a skeet-shooting analogy to describe his strategy.

“I love to shoot clay, sporting clay,” he told reporters. “And I told my kids, instead of aiming, when they were young, at the clay, you shoot at where the clay’s headed. You guys are aiming at the clay right now. We’re going to be out with primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and we’re aiming where they’re headed.”

At an ice cream stop, he reminisced about running track as a kid and drew further parallels to the presidential race.

“I used to not worry about who was ahead at the first lap,” he said. “I had a plan. I drafted with all the other runners, and then I waited till the last curve, and the person that was way ahead who might’ve been the person who fell behind at the corner. I don’t worry about who else is in the race.”

It wasn’t a perfect analogy. When the 2016 presidential field was taking shape in the spring, Walker was in the front of the pack in many national polls but he has since drifted back.

For Walker, who says he loves getting the feel of a state on the back of a Harley, the tour itself offered an analogy for the presidential race. The ups and downs and twists and turns of the road are, yes, just like the polls in a campaign.

But there’s something else to riding a Harley that captured the political spirit Walker hopes to evoke: He said it feels like freedom to him. In fact, he said that one of the things he likes about New Hampshire, which is known as the “Live Free or Die State,” is that its laws do not require motor cycle riders to wear helmets. In Wisconsin, riders also are not required to wear helmets, as long as they are older than 17.

But Walker says he wears one anyway because of a deal he struck with his wife: “Always wear a helmet, and I never drink when I’m on a motorcycle.”

Of course, “After I’m done for the day, I drink plenty. But not when I’m riding.”

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