Back in February, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was arguably the hottest Republican presidential aspirant on the scene — a relative newcomer leading a growing field of GOP candidates in the polls and seemingly a cinch to win the Iowa caucuses in early 2016 that would catapult him to frontrunner status.
With his Everyman persona and stirring tales of crushing state employees in a major collective bargaining dispute and then winning a recall election in 2012, Walker quickly became a hero to grass roots conservatives and Tea Party advocates.
Yet on Monday, Walker was a beaten man — literally scoring less than 1 per cent in the latest CNN/ORC national poll and fast running out of campaign funds. He was barely an afterthought to voters in a GOP presidential battle dominated by billionaire Donald Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and now former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
Walker announced in a brief speech in Madison, Wisc., that he was ending his bid for president and joining former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in bailing out after shockingly poor performances in the first two debates of the campaign season and a series of missteps that suggested he wasn’t quite ready for prime time.
But in his farewell to a raucous and hard-hitting GOP primary contest, Walker urged others in the cluttered field to drop out as well and rally round a true conservative — in the mould of Ronald Reagan — to take on the bellicose Trump. He complained that the field had become so crowded that candidates have become more focused on “personal attacks” than on the issues that voters care most about, including jobs, the size of government and the military.
“Today, I believe that I’m being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field,” Walker said. “With this in mind I will suspend my campaign immediately. I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current frontrunner.”
“This is fundamentally important to the future of the party and more importantly to the future of the country,” he added.
Yet with less than a percentage point or two in the latest polls, it was far from clear how Walker and more than a half dozen other trailing GOP candidates could influence the race by dropping out at this point. Nor was it clear which of the remaining candidates would fit the bill for Walker — although Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have sought to run more positive campaigns devoid of Trump’s harsh negativity about the country’s standing in the world. Even before Walker had announced his decision, one of his top supporters in New Hampshire, Cliff Hurst, jumped to the Rubio’s campaign.
Trump greeted the news the news that Walker was pulling out by tweeting that the governor was “a very nice person and has a great future” — but that was before Walker actually delivered his speech. Union leaders who long have fought with Walker over collective bargaining and economic issues were quick to celebrate his presidential campaign’s demise. “Scott Walker is still a disgrace, just no longer national,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said in a brief statement.
Walker reportedly concluded that he lacked a viable path to the nomination after Trump and the two other political “outsiders” — Carson and Fiorina — cut deeply into his conservative support while his financial support began to dry up.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Walker had been riding high last spring and early summer, enjoying strong numbers in the polls while his allied Super Pac, “Unintimidated,” raised nearly $US20 million between April and June. But because he hadn’t formally announced for president, Walker wasn’t permitted to raise money for his campaign organisation under federal law.
By the time he finally did announce in July, his uneven performance, missteps and dull speeches began to drive down his poll numbers — and make political backers less inclined to pump money into his campaign.
Desperate to pull his campaign out of a tailspin in Iowa, Walker this summer seemingly endorsed Trump’s highly controversial plan to end birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment for children born of illegal immigrants in this country. He quickly disavowed his statement after coming under attack. Walker even tried to one-up Trump’s call for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by saying a proposal for constructing a wall along thousands of miles of the U.S. border with Canada had merit.
As he tried to toughen his stands on immigration and social issues to keep up with the high-flying Trump and other conservative hardliners, Walker began to alienate some of his biggest financial backers, including Stanley S. Hubbard, a billionaire Minnesota broadcasting magnate, who disapproved of some of Walker’s policy shifts.
Hubbard told the Journal Sentinel last Friday that while he would continue to back Walker for president, he intended to give money to other candidates, including Fiorina.
“Walker did not have any out and out terrible moments,” explained Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. “There isn’t a Rick Perry ‘oops’ on his presidential scorecard or, for our older readers, an equivalent of George Romney’s ‘brainwashing’ on Vietnam in the 1968 Republican contest. Rather, it’s been death by a thousand cuts for Walker.”
This story was originally published by The Fiscal Times.
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