Tim Carney’s article about how the presidential candidates did at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference reaffirms my beliefs. First, it reaffirms that Jeb Bush is a frontrunner only because of his fundraising operation and his name recognition. Second, it reaffirms my belief that this race isn’t about who wins ‘the establishment primary’ vs. who wins ‘the movement primary’. Third, it reaffirms my belief that candidates like Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Donald Trump are sideshows and don’t have a chance at winning the nomination. Finally, it reaffirms my belief that I’ve had from the start that Scott Walker is still the frontrunner.

OKLAHOMA CITY — The annual Southern Republican Leadership Conference provided a glimpse into the state of the Republican base and the presidential field. The conference revealed a Republican base that is (1) broadly happy with the crowded and conservative field, (2) still smitten with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and (3) unimpressed and uninterested in Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Senate chaos over the Patriot Act kept the four senators who are running from making it, dampening the mood a bit. The candidates running a second time — Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Mike Huckabee — do not excite the conservative base.

What’s interesting is Carney’s statement that the activists are “still smitten with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.” Marco Rubio has climbed to frontrunner status on Special Report’s Candidate Casino segment because he’s excellent on foreign policy and he’s got a terrific life story to tell. Jeb Bush is accorded top tier status for the reasons I’ve stated above. Scott Walker still gets strong support but there’s little buzz about him.

Perhaps that’s because he’s just the guy everyone quietly likes? This part is interesting:

Straw Poll: The straw poll results mostly reflected Scott Walker’s popularity, and the apprehension the Republican base has for Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, the perceived establishment moderates in the field.

1) Dr. Ben Carson won the straw poll handily, thanks to his having the biggest organized effort. His campaign bought a booth and bought 100 tickets, to allow supporters to attend for free. Many of these supporters came in from out of state. All told, Carson won about 240 votes.

2) The biggest winner may have been Wisconsin Gov. Walker, who finished a close second, with about 200 votes. He had no organized effort to win the straw poll, but he still won the most votes among Oklahomans in the crowd. His Friday afternoon speech was spot-on and well delivered. His strong showing reflects that the good will Walker garnered through his fights in Madison, Wis., sill buoy him, even after other conservative stars have entered the race.

Dr. Carson showed that he’s put together an organization. Still, what’s impressive is that Gov. Walker didn’t bring his organizers to the event and still was competitive. This might be more impressive, though:

3) What recommends Walker most to Republican voters is his successful battles with powerful labor unions, the media, and the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Walker made these battles — including his recall election victory — the focus of his talk.

4) Walker was able to tick off a long list of legislative accomplishments, touching on all the major conservative policy priorities: cutting spending, cutting taxes, bringing the bureaucracy to heel, defunding Planned Parenthood, expanding gun rights, passing right to work, requiring photo ID for voters and so on.

5) Walker cast his political and policy wins as populist victories over powerful insiders. He described his fight against the government unions as “taking power out of the hands the big-government special interests” and putting it in the hands of ordinary people.

6) Walker closed with a pointed critique of his rivals. He said many Washington politicians are good at picking fights, but they don’t win — a clear reference to Cruz’s failed Obamacare shutdown, and Marco Rubio and Paul’s lack of a record. Alternatively, many Republicans, Walker said, are good at winning races, but they never fight for important, tough things — presumably referring to Christie and Bush.

In other words, he’s a confident leader with a lengthy list of conservative accomplishments who isn’t afraid to pick a fight. Simply put, he’s everything McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Santorum weren’t and Jeb Bush isn’t.

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