Caitlin Huey-Burns, Real Clear Politics—
Scott Walker went from a leading contender to an asterisk in the polls. Now, the Wisconsin governor is bowing out of the presidential race all together.
In announcing the suspension of his campaign in Madison, Walker took a not-so-veiled swipe at Donald Trump, saying the GOP presidential race had become divisive and lost sight of the party’s optimistic message. He also called on his fellow rivals to follow his lead and exit the race in order to coalesce support around a clear alternative to the front-running Trump.
“The Bible is full of stories about people called to be leaders,” Walker said. “I believe I am being called to lead to help clear the field in this race.”
The governor did not throw his support behind anyone. While Walker had little stock left in the polls, he had shored up a wide range of talented campaign professionals, nationally and in Iowa, and there will surely be competition for his staff and his donors. Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush could be the beneficiaries, as they were campaigning in a similar lane. Ohio’s John Kasich, the only other Midwestern governor left in the race, could also stand to gain.
Walker’s exit comes just 70 days after he launched his presidential bid in his hometown of Waukesha. It follows a lackluster debate performance in Simi Valley, Calif., last week and a subsequent CNN poll showing him below 1 percent support — a remarkable fall for a candidate who led Iowa and placed third overall in July.
As donors grew publicly anxious after the last debate, Walker said he would put his campaign focus solely on Iowa. The first caucus state was originally thought to be his to lose.
A pastor’s son who spent his early childhood in Iowa, Walker organically connected with the state’s evangelical roots. A well-received speech there in January boosted his standing. But his campaign then grew too big too quickly, and the governor proved unprepared for the spotlight.
He began the race with a hope of attracting both establishment voters and conservatives with his record of winning, electorally and policy-wise, in a blue Midwestern state. But he never quite found his footing, veering too far right for moderates and appearing too insincere for base voters.
The two-term governor launched his campaign as a Washington outsider, hoping to capitalize on his experience as a state executive who challenged public employee unions. But his message became largely overshadowed by the rise of real political outsiders such as Donald Trump, who rose to the top of the polls as Walker faded into the background, along with many of the other career politicians.
This, combined with his previous campaign trail stumbles, made it difficult for Walker to rebound in the polls and to raise money to continue his campaign. Though the governor has a super PAC supporting him, it was not enough to sustain his candidacy.
Walker, 47, was looking to last week’s debate as a time for redemption, to remind voters and donors of his record and why he was considered a leading contender in the first place. While he had moments of success in the early minutes of the debate, he was ultimately overshadowed by his rivals.
Walker becomes the second contender — and second candidate with gubernatorial experience — to bow out of the crowded presidential field. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry left the race on Sept. 11.