This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, September 22, 2015:
On Monday Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, called it quits in his effort to gain the party’s nomination for president:
Today, I believe that I am 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. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.
He then took a shot at the current frontrunner without mentioning Trump’s name:
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 front runner. This is fundamentally important to the future of the party and, more importantly, to the future of our country.
His campaign strategy of focusing on the Iowa primary seemed to be working, until the middle of July. He led most polls in the state, and was consistently ranked among the top three or four contenders in national surveys. His message of strength while facing adversity, his success in pulling the teeth of unions in Wisconsin and then rebuffing their efforts to recall him, and his plain-spoken manner resonated with voters.
But when lined up with the other contenders, including the histrionic Donald Trump, and with Trump’s increasingly acidic and populist message resonating with disgruntled voters, Walker’s message faded. His inability to articulate a consistent position on foreign policy and immigration, and some vocal stumbles — repeated endlessly by the media — reduced the cash flow. With his second lackluster performance on stage, the spigots were turned off, and the end was inevitable.
As Stan Hubbard, a Minnesota-based television station owner and major Walker donor, put it: “Scott, for whatever reason, didn’t connect on TV. And if you can’t make it on television today in national politics, you’re dead.” And as Gary Marx, one of Walker’s senior campaign advisors, said following the announcement: “Hard dollars still matter. He didn’t have the finances to continue on. Money is ultimately what stops campaigns from going further.”
His departure is hardly leaving a void, however, as both Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are expected to benefit from Walker’s appeal to evangelical Christians and business-friendly Republicans. Said Cruz:
Governor Scott Walker is a good man, a formidable fighter, and an effective reformer. Wisconsin is considerably stronger as a result of the changes he pushed through under incredibly difficult and contentious conditions.
In the presidential race, his focus on new, innovative policy ideas made the entire Republican field better. I wish Scott and Tonette all the best in their continued service to Wisconsin and the country.
Scott Walker is a good man who entered the presidential race after winning three grueling campaigns in four years. I know many people are disappointed with Scott’s announcement and I respect what a difficult decision it must have been. He remains one of the best governors in the country and I have no doubt that he’ll continue the fight for conservative principles. Republicans are lucky to have Scott on our team, and I wish the best to him and his family.
Both Cruz’s and Rubio’s campaigns are expected to draw in many of Walker’s staff to continue their efforts to gain the nomination for their candidate.
Indirectly, Walker’s departure may also trigger the beginning of the end of the main contender, who was responsible for sucking most of the oxygen out of Walker’s campaign. As Trump continues to lead the field, he also continues to alienate the voters the Republican Party needs to have any chance in 2016: Hispanics, women, immigrants, veterans, and most recently, Muslims. If Trump continues to mock and vilify them in his attempt to build his support among voters seeking a change at any cost, insiders are saying his message will, in the end, doom the party’s chances.
Walker’s message as a man of modest means and his ability to win an election in 2010, a recall election in 2012, and get reelected in 2014 over his previous opponent by an even wider margin than in the first campaign, stands him good stead for the future. By ending his campaign before its debts overwhelmed him, he may already be looking to the future.
He did little damage to his relations with the billionaire brothers Koch, one of whom remarked favorably on Walker’s candidacy early in his campaign. And Walker has an e-mail list of 300,000 voters who have given money to his campaign, a good base on which to build another run in the future.
It’s helpful to remember that Walker was the first, and still the only, American governor to survive a recall effort. To conclude that he will fold his tents and disappear forever into the political night is premature.