Over the last generation, Wisconsin has had her share of politicians with national ambitions, to cabinet offices or elected executive office (Democrat Les Aspin, Republicans Tommy Thompson, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker among them).
They’ve not fared so well; Gov. Walker’s effort is still ongoing.
All of those I’ve listed were regarded in Wisconsin as especially skilled before they took cabinet positions or sought federal executive, elected office.
When serving federally or running, however, they all hit (or are hitting) difficult waters.
I’d say part of the reason is that our state press may be critical, but many reporters ask only one (critical) question, if that. There’s either no follow up, or weak follow up to an odd answer. Politicians here get to slide on shaky claims.
Nationally, there are enough inquisitive reporters, editorialists, and bloggers so that an easy pass isn’t possible.
One can rise far in a local arena without persistent follow up, but across America, there are competitive Democrats and Republicans who grew up in a more demanding environment. When Wisconsin politicians meet rivals from other parts of the country, they find themselves facing foes (often within the same party) that are more adroit.
These rivals are not smarter, truly, as much as they’re more adroit from a demanding environment.
As it turns out, a national-level of conditioning matters a great deal.
By the time an aspiring politician sees this, however, it may be too late to acquire the necessary skill and insight.
It’s simply prudent, locally or nationally, to try (as best one can) to meet a national standard all along.