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Walker May Have A Lot Riding On Wednesday Night's Debate Performance

Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images

Gov. Scott Walker has recently fallen in the polls among GOP presidential contenders, and his approval ratings have dropped as well including, in Wisconsin. He did not generate much attention during the first GOP debate, in August, so interests may be watching to observe what he does differently this time.

UW-Madison Political Science Professor Barry Burden says Walker's initial performance was perceived as weak in several ways.

"In the first debate, he was accused of being too passive and not taking advantage of the platform. He didn’t use all of the time that was allotted to him, which was unusual – none of the other candidates seemed to do that. He was a little meek compared to the aggressive approaches many of the other candidates took. I think relative to the aggressiveness and the presence of Trump in the middle of the stage, Walker was sort of invisible during the debate and didn’t leave much of an impression,” Burden says.

Yet Burden says Walker has had a reputation as Wisconsin’s governor that has served him quite well among Republicans.

“I think people view him as relatable. He has a different background than most of the other Republican candidates, he has a record of doing things in Wisconsin as governor and that’s allowed him to contrast with some of the other candidates who either are from the US Senate or the business world or other places. So there’s a policy of accomplishments I think that work well for him,” Burden says.

Burden predicts that interested party members will watch for a number of things in Walker, when he and 10 other Republican candidates take the stage at CNN.

"I think one concern for his base, his donors and the activists who work on his campaign is whether he’s got the energy to engage in the campaign in an aggressive way. He called it a sense of urgency, and so he’s got to display that to show that he can take on the other candidates and make a compelling argument on why he should be the nominee, how his record in Wisconsin makes him a credible candidate,” Burden says.

Burden predicts Walker will accentuate his record as governor, particularly his dismantling of public sector unions and will likely tout his interest in weakening federal unions, if elected president.