BURLINGTON, Wisconsin — Picnics aren’t supposed to be maudlin. But last weekend, as they piled their plates with bratwurst and tipped back cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon at Speaker Paul Ryan’s annual Fall Fest, Wisconsin Republicans wrestled with their mortality as a powerhouse in state and national politics.
Gov. Scott Walker, who is seeking a third term in November, delivered the biggest buzzkill. Believe the polls, he told the nearly 300 activists gathered here inside a tarpaulin tent in the middle of an apple orchard. Even the recent one that shows him losing by 5 points.
For months Walker has been warning about the possibility of a Democratic “blue wave” to anyone who will listen. The fear is that not many will. President Donald Trump routinely trashes unfavorable polls and brags about how he outperformed them in 2016. Focus groups conducted over the summer by a Trump-aligned organization found conservative voters largely happy and confident about the midterm elections.
So atop a stage crafted with bales of hay, Walker on Saturday once again played the role of the Republican Party’s Cassandra: a teller of hard truths trying to avoid the kind of tragic fate worthy of a mythological Greek prophet.
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