Walker's handling of the scandal could cause way more damage than the initial scandal.
Earlier this week, I shared four reasons why the release of the John Doe emails was not the next Bridgegate. Today, I'd like to talk a little bit about how John Doe could impact the November election, even without reaching the stature of the New Jersey scandal.
1. Walker fumbles when off his talking points
Governor Walker is a decent speaker when he is able to stick to his talking points. Up to this point, recurring opponent Tom Barrett and Wisconsin's reporters have done Scott Walker a favor by never asking questions that force him to get off his talking points.
But the email release is too big a matter not to generate a lot of questions, and Walker's responses haven't been great. He even stumbled on Fox News, and that is the equivalent of a team getting booed by its own cheerleaders!
As Walker goes out to do more and more national interviews in order to build his profile for a potential presidential run, this topic is going to keep coming up. He'll either keep dodging and stumbling his way around an answer, or he'll start changing his answer and it will sound like a contradiction of what he has said in the past. Walker's handling of the scandal could cause way more damage than the initial scandal.
Make a supercut of Walker's denials and fumbles, and you've got a solid attack ad that hits a little harder than calling him a "rock star."
2. Liberal groups could theoretically pick one thing to attack him on
There are lots of moderately nasty things in the emails: racism, collusion, complete apathy towards persons with disabilities, made-up swear words. In a normal scenario, progressive groups will each pick the one that matters most to their particular wing of the coalition, everyone issues a lot of competing press releases, and all of the potential scandals fade into the background.
However, there is the theoretical possibility that these groups could pick a single issue and make a lasting news story out of it. Do some message testing to see which one resonates with the all-important, near-mythical Obama/Walker voters that Wisconsin Democrats so desperately want to win over for the governor's race.
For example, imagine if all these groups had the message discipline to focus on the coverup in the death of Lucinda Anczak, a mental health patient under Milwaukee County care during Walker's time as county exec. If all the different groups keep on bringing it up in their talking points, it will be tough for the media to ignore the issue. They start asking Walker about it, and becomes another answer he can fumble in interviews.
3. Boost voter turnout
This scandal isn't going to turn tea party voters into progressives, but it can boost Democratic turnout. Take a look at the national level -- conservatives keep on bringing up Benghazi not because that issue is going to switch over any moderate voters, but because it keeps their base motivated.
Much of Wisconsin Democratic base is still stinging from the recall loss, and they haven't been super energized by Burke's campaign thus far; they need something to rally them. Racist emails and dirty politics add fuel to the fire, reenergizing the grassroots to make phone calls and knock on doors.
4. Scare Walker's fundraising machine a little
The recall turned Walker into a fundraising dynamo, expanding his outreach from palling around with an in-state billionaire to getting to know billionaires nationwide. Isn't it nice that a billionaire from Texas, with all the things that could occupy his busy day, is willing to give little ole Wisconsin some attention to make sure our minimum wage doesn't go up? Mary Burke's personal wealth is a mere fraction of what Walker can attract.
However, perhaps the scrutiny of John Doe I and its more campaign finance-minded brother John Doe II will make certain wealthy financiers think twice before signing a check. Do they really want all their campaign activities brought into the light in John Doe III?
There has to be a John Doe III, after all, they need to finish out the trilogy.