He lasted 71 days.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was enough of a threat for Hillary Clinton’s operation to make him one of three Republican candidates this summer that they publicly attacked.
But a little more than two months after it began, Walker’s campaign suddenly — and shockingly — ended Monday afternoon, with an unceremonious statement filled with subtle shots at current Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
That Walker exited before the Iowa caucuses in February — let alone before the official turn of summer into fall — threw out the conventional wisdom that he, along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), was one of the early favourites to win the Republican nomination.
But his departure from the race also dispels two big assumptions about the Republican primary: First, that establishment-type candidates would be able to linger around until the field’s political “outsiders” had fizzled out. And second, that in a new era of super PACs, candidates would stick around much longer even if they experienced money woes.
“I think the whole super PAC deal is nothing until you get to Iowa,” Ray Washburne, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who now heads fundraising for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), told The New York Times. “Between now and then, you need to have hard money.”
Indeed, as The Times reported, the Walker-aligned “Unintimidated” super PAC was on track to raise more than $US40 million by the end of the year. But super PACs cannot pay campaign staff, rent, phone bills, or the cost of flying across the country to campaign for president. Moreover, they are subject to higher rates for advertising on television.
The ramifications could be significant. Much of the Republican field has turned to a super PAC-heavy model. The groups backing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who was the first to drop out of the field, raised more than $US12 million. But he wasn’t able to pay staff and his inability to break through a crowded field as a candidate left the outside group unable to pick up the grassroots elements typically left to a campaign.
“Not surprising now but stunning when you look back,” one veteran Republican strategist told Business Insider when Perry dropped out earlier this month. “He had the organisation, the record, the outside support.”
As The Times reported, the next five weeks will be a significant test of the super PAC model, as most campaigns will depend on them to “communicate with voters on their behalf” before the next Republican debate.
Most campaigns, that is, except that of Trump. The real-estate-mogul-turned-Republican-front-runner is self-funding the vast majority of his campaign. And that makes another big assumption to throw out the window — that Trump would inevitably fade while the more established, proven candidates rose to the top.
“The descent will be slow, but it’s dawning on voters that he doesn’t have any real proposals, just bombast,” opined Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist at the Potomac Research Group, who ranked Trump seventh in a list of GOP candidates most likely to win the nomination.
But, he added, signalling the increased seriousness with which Trump’s candidacy is being taken, “Ranking him as high as 7th makes us uneasy.”
Though Trump has seen a bit of a deflation in his poll balloon over the past few days, he’s also making clear that he’s not a flavour of the month. He has led every poll of the GOP race since July — since before Walker even entered the race.
And as Walker exited the race, Trump was quick to note that he doesn’t have the same deficiencies that could plague other candidates.
He told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa: “The nice part about my campaign is that my money people will always be ready, 100 % ready. My money person is me.”
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