Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Sam Tanenhaus

The Remodeled Midwestern Republican

The spotlight on Scott Walker shows how the Rust Belt's Republicans are changing their party, and vice versa.
Republicans learn to reap what they sow.

Republicans learn to reap what they sow.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Will the Republican Party return to its Midwestern roots? Until recently, the possibility seemed remote, thanks to the shift of power to the South and the Sunbelt. But with Scott Walker's rise in the 2016 presidential contest, it's worth asking: What is left of the Midwest in 21st-century Republicanism?

Whatever comes of his presidential ambitions -- he is under attack from all sides -- the Wisconsin governor is trying to tie his story to the history and traditions of the Midwest, the ideological flyover country that has nevertheless produced a new wave of leaders. Ten of the 12 Midwestern states, including five of the six most populous ones (the lone exception is Missouri), currently have Republican governors. In addition to Walker, this group includes two other possible 2016 contenders, John Kasich in Ohio and Mike Pence in Indiana, as well as Rick Snyder in Michigan and Bruce Rauner in Illinois.