The stunning, swift collapse of Scott Walker’s campaign

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks Monday at a news conference where he announced he is suspending his presidential campaign. (AP Photo / Morry Gash)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks Monday at a news conference where he announced he is suspending his presidential campaign. (AP Photo / Morry Gash)

Rick Perry was the first to drop out of the 2016 presidential race, but even he isn’t the Rick Perry of 2016. That bit of notoriety belongs to Scott Walker.

Perry, you may recall, was long seen as the big shot of the 2012 campaign. The fourth-term governor of a booming Texas, he was believed to be the one candidate who had the ability to pull together grass-roots conservatives and enough of the establishment to ward off Mitt Romney in the nominating contest. For a time, he had the poll numbers to back up the hype. And then his campaign just fell apart. Everyone remembers his “oops” moment, when he couldn’t recall the name of the third federal agency he intended to shut down as president. But the truth is that by then he had already fallen from a 12-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average to fourth place. For whatever reason — and many have been bandied about — Perry just wasn’t the candidate in flesh and blood that he appeared to be on paper.

Fast-forward four years. The stunningly early end to Walker’s campaign, announced last night, will probably be likened to that of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2012, but I think that’s too superficial. Yes, they were both plainspoken-to-the-point-of-boring candidates from the Midwest. But while Pawlenty was viewed as a potential dark horse, Walker was considered a top-tier candidate by nearly everyone. (Yep, that includes me.) He had survived the intense targeting of Democrats, labor unions and left-wingers generally in both the recall election he faced in 2012 and his re-election just last fall. He had a clear message at hand — I’m the guy to rein in Washington’s out-of-control bureaucracy the way I reined in Wisconsin’s public-sector unions — with the apparent appeal of Perry’s 2012 promise to take Texas’ economic boom nationwide. He had the ostensible ability to bring together conservatives and establishment Republicans. And yet, he simply wasn’t able to make anything of it.

In some ways, Walker is the biggest political casualty of Trump-mania. More than any other candidate, Walker seemed to lose his bearings amid Donald Trump’s surge. Look at immigration, on which Walker seemingly has been on every side of the issue more than once, and often in response to Trump’s demagoguery. Other GOP candidates have adjusted to Trump — although I still think the brash immigration talk has been mostly a way for The Donald to prove just how unorthodox and non-political a politician he is, regardless of the issue — but Walker seemed to be thrown completely off-kilter by it.

Even that, though, may be merely symptomatic. I alluded last week to having heard some disturbing stories out of the Walker campaign. I’ll omit the specifics to protect my source, but suffice it to say the Walker campaign at times seemed unable to make even basic logistical decisions for holding events. This is Campaign 101 kind of stuff. So is making sure your candidate has a message he can stick to on major, controversial issues such as immigration — or, at the very least, that he won’t be guilty of changing his tune on a daily or even hourly basis.

As is always the case, it’s hard to know how much of this problem stems from the candidate himself vs. the people around him. But as is also always the case, it’s the candidate’s fault either way. Whether the candidate can’t choose and manage competent advisers, won’t listen to them, doesn’t have enough principle or hasn’t taken the time to sort out what he really believes, or is really making the mistakes himself, the buck stops with him. There are a lot of disappointed Walker fans this morning, but better to learn the truth now than deep into the primaries, during the general election or — worst of all — after Jan. 20, 2017.

Reader Comments 0

68 comments
Dusty2
Dusty2

Very true that Republicans have some fine citizens lined up for the final choice.  I like a lot of them  but it is so obvious that only one is truly a presidential "fit". He is smart, experienced, ethical, and comes from a family noted for its honesty and successes.  Of course that is Jeb Bush.


Those of you who absorbed too much Dem propaganda about his brother seem to overlook the best choice before you.  Jeb will stand tall no matter who tries all their political tricks & lies laid on him.  He will govern in the OLD honest ways of our forefathers;  i.e with straight forward integrity and love of country with disregard for lies and insinuations...


So go ahead and consider!  (Trump could be another "Cheney" with fire but he wouldn't take second place or Secretary of State.)  We do not need a ferocious fireball as president. Kinda fun to watch but not to keep!     

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

The GOP can (and will eventually) lose half a dozen more candidates and still have five or six who are more intelligent, thoughtful, and competent than any of the Democrats.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@LilBarryBailout Yeah, totes. Carly, for example, is so competent that she is widely regarded as one of the worst public company CEOs in American history. So bad, in fact, that in the 10 years since her ouster, she hasn't been offered a single public company CEO job. LOLZ

Starik
Starik

@Eye wonder @LilBarryBailout If you could take an objective look at the Republican field - I know it's hard, if not impossible -  intelligent, competent and thoughtful aren't the first adjectives that come to mind.  The few that do show these traits are handicapped by extreme religious convictions.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

I note that none of the peanut gallery could muster a positive argument in favor of any of the Democrats.  My statement stands.  Fiorina is just one of the GOP candidates who is more intelligent, thoughtful, and competent than Hillary, Bernie, et al.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Shouting "KOCH BROTHERS!!!" is the political equivalent of wearing your ball cap backward.

Cobbian
Cobbian

Whether the candidate can’t choose and manage competent advisers, won’t listen to them, doesn’t have enough principle or hasn’t taken the time to sort out what he really believes, or is really making the mistakes himself, the buck stops with him. "


Only true to a point.  Mitt got whipped around by the TeaPublicans who control the selection process.  By the time the election came around, he was a shell of a man.  


What we are getting on the TeaPublican side are more empty shells rather than people of principle.  Maybe Christie, Bush, Fiorina have some substance, some leadership skill and some sense.  But not even they have a vision of how to invigorate this country again - just tired old answer that have long since proven to be ineffective.  If cutting taxes creates jobs, where are they?  Is the answer that "well, we just haven't cut taxes enough, yet"?  Why is the middle class stalled and the number of poor growing while we have been playing around with "trickle down" theories that don't bring any "trickle down" but have increased income at the top and led to the greatest concentration of wealth since the Great Depression?


Whatever the answer, it isn't to cut taxes. 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Cobbian

Yes, clearly the awesome economic recovery under Obama has proven beyond all doubt that the answer is higher taxes, more regulation, more business-bashing, more low-wage workers imported, more mandates on businesses and individuals, bigger government, less rule of law, and more uncertainty.

Tuco-TheUgly
Tuco-TheUgly

Oh well. Two down, only sixteen more to go. We will save the clown for last. He sure is an entertainer.

MarkVV
MarkVV

It is tempting to say “good riddance” about Walker, but it loses its import with the realization that it would apply to so many of the Republican candidates.

While the campaign organizational incompetence might have played a role, one should not ignore the emptiness of Walker’s claims, such as his fantasy that defeating the labor unions in Wisconsin shows that he would be able to deal with ISIS.  And winning elections in a state is overrated as an indicator of a national appeal. Perhaps most importantly, Walker was unable to distinguish himself in the debates to the extent of being only “also present.”

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@MarkVV

And what do Hillary's failures in  Libya and Syria tell us about HER ability to deal with ISIS?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Walker's big issue was reining in the public sector unions, which he accomplished.  Everyone gives him credit for that and some of us admire his relentlessness in sticking to his decisions despite all the criticism from the union loving media.  The problem was this just wasn't enough to build a national campaign strategy on.  Most of the country is right to work and are not that adversely impacted by the union culture.  Unions are self destructing on their own and more states are waking up to the economic advantages of being a right to work state, so this issue pales in comparison to immigration, economy, VA, and foreign policy.  The base wants to see the borders closed and the invasion of illegals stopped, the government reformed and repaired, the economy fixed, our foreign policy repaired, and our military protected.  Walker didn't stand out as a first choice solution on these issues.

M H Smith
M H Smith

Ten more left to go before the GOP is getting down to "stunning" business. 

lvg
lvg

I guess it is a contest of Rubio, Christie and Cruz to see who gets the Koch money next.. Bush and Fiorina don't need it. and Carson isn't Koch material-yet.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Kyle_Wingfield @lvg The Koch Bros are pretty liberal on social issues, I wouldn't think a son of a preacher man would be there first choice, but never let reason get in the way of someone's derangement.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg Absolutely hilarious that "the Kochs' guy" is a quick flameout in the primary, and yet they still supposedly control the universe ... 

Something tells me we haven't hit peak Koch Derangement Syndrome yet.

@eidsonb
@eidsonb

See the KOOK's are all over the Koch Brothers and forget spooky George Sorros.  Double Standard, yep  

ByteMe
ByteMe

@@eidsonb You know that one Koch can buy 2 Soros on the open market, right?

50Concept
50Concept

scott can limp back to wisconsin with a few million from the kochs and start abusing workers again!  He'll end up with a 7 figure lobbying job soon with connected republicans.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Scott probably lost points every time he looked down and exposed the bald spot atop his noggin.

We'll never know if his campaign might've been saved by a toupee. 

Juanx
Juanx

Reminds me of how Former GW Bush was not so popular during his last year in office. I always blamed him for not having made the best staff choices. But, at least he was selected by the voters, not the Koch Brothers. Scot Walker sold his soul and thought he could just let money speak. He is a divisive little person who could not conquer.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Juanx I didn't realize the Kochs had appointment powers in Wisconsin.

Centrist
Centrist

@Kyle_Wingfield @Juanx They don't, Kyle.  But they have the money to buy off all the Republican pretenders with the exception of Trump.  You're a smart guy.  You already know that, just like the rest of us do.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Centrist Ah, the old "you're smart, therefore you must agree with me and are just too dishonest to admit it" line of "argument."


LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Juanx

Money speaks, but it doesn't vote.

Do you vote based on who spends the most money?  Or is it just those "other" people?

quickworkbreak
quickworkbreak

Not sure anyone would consider his failure as "stunning", at least those that have observed his divisive practices.


To the point of incompetent campaigns: Could it be a consideration that because there are so many currently being managed, the "usual players" in national campaigns are spread so thin that there's not a lot of people in any one campaign that has a good track record for best practices?

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Truth is there is not a nickel difference in all of the GOP bums. Trump is GA's boy....

Scott Wallace
Scott Wallace

Walker and Cruz were the only two insider candidates I was considering. I tried to become a volunteer for Walker and was told -by his supporters- that immigration wasn't that important an issue for him. I know he tried to harden his stance and I was hopeful. To the other insider candidates- unless you're Bush, Rubio, Christy or Cruz- AND you don't embrace the base and outsider views you are never going to win. 

Caius
Caius

Like many I was also surprised at Walker's drop from #1 to near last.  But I never thought he was the answer for the Republican Party for President.  I know he won 3 elections in 4 years. But. He was running on a non-presidential election day.  That makes a difference. In presidential elections Obama  secured 1.7 million Wisconsin votes in 2008 and 1.6 million in 2012.  Walker's vote totals were 1.1 million in 2010, 1.3 million in the June 2012 recall and 1.3 million in the 2014 reelection.


Unlikely he would carry his own state in a presidential bid.

332-206
332-206

Two Republican govenors with strong records of accomplishments will not win their Party's nomination for President.

Someday - perhaps - Donald Trump's candidacy will not be a source of amusement.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@332-206 While I prefer governors as candidates over senators, they do come with one liability: They can be a bit provincial, don't necessarily know how to appeal to the broader electorate of the national stage. And let's face it, part of the reason for a long nominating contest is to let such flaws come to the fore.

As for Trump, I would say that day is coming sooner than later, but I've gotten out of the Trump-prediction business.

332-206
332-206

Fair enough.

Allow me, then, to be in the Trump characterization business:

He's a menace.

He stains the Party.

It's a shame.

straker
straker

A Republican may or may not win the presidency in 2016.


Still, when you have 16 people running, that seems to me to indicate a fundamental weakness in a Party.

bu2
bu2

@straker

Having 2 Democrats (1 washed up, 1 never having done anything but married a President to be) running against a Socialist and a Republican indicates a fundamental weakness in the Democratic party.   The Republicans have plenty of candidates of all ages, sexes and multiple ethnic groups.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@ssinf @bu2 And the only block the Dems can just completely write off is the white folk.  Yet, all their candidates are white, go figure.

ssinf
ssinf

@bu2 


The diversity of the candidates is somewhat ironic given the only bloc the GOP can count on for support is the aging white vote.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@ssinf @RafeHollister If what you say is malarkey, I won't support you. That's what the GOP gets wrong. "Hey, let's get a black guy, let's get a woman, let's get a Hispanic, that'll make them like us!"


What is the point of of two Dem parties, which is what you are advocating.  The GOP should find an Hispanic that is for open borders, reckless spending, weak defense, more social programs, etc. and that gets us where?  


No thanks, I think the majority of Americans are tired of the big government, open borders, run amuck social spending, weak defense, no clear foreign policy, and a diminishing leadership role in the world.  I guess Nov 2016 will tell the tale of what Americans want for the future.

ssinf
ssinf

@RafeHollister


*bloc


Given the last two elections (and winning the popular vote in 5 of the last 6), I'd say the Dems are doing a far better job than the GOP of cobbling together a winning coalition. I don't care if you are black, white, green, or purple. If what you say is malarkey, I won't support you. That's what the GOP gets wrong. "Hey, let's get a black guy, let's get a woman, let's get a Hispanic, that'll make them like us!"


How's that working out?

ssinf
ssinf

@RafeHollister 


"big government, open borders, run amuck social spending, weak defense, no clear foreign policy, and a diminishing leadership role in the world."


You think all of those "issues" are peculiar to Democrats? If you want to go down that road again, by all means do. You know, because it worked so well for the GOP in 2008 and 2012. Why not call anyone who doesn't agree with you a mooch? You know....for good measure.