The Scott Walker Autopsies

I’ve been spending the better part of two hours reading and re-reading what are essentially autopsies of Scott Walker’s failed presidential bid. 71 days in the race, early fundraising successes and a groundswell of support fizzled away. Virtually every piece out there comes to the same conclusion, that it was ultimately the cash problem that killed the campaign. And, like a really good political drama, of course there was secret infighting that built up to the final curtain call.

The autopsies all agree – campaign management and donors did not agree on how the campaign was being run. Near as I can tell, courtesy National Review, the ballooning of the campaign staff in Iowa hurt the most.

The reason the money had disappeared, many say, is that the campaign treated the first two months of a long campaign like the closing months of an election. Walker’s organization, with Wiley at the helm, had bloated to 90 people. The Washington Post reporter assigned to follow the governor on the campaign trail marveled at campaign events that were, in her words, “elaborately staged,” even in small-town Iowa. There was a personal photographer, a public-relations firm, and an entourage of aides and staffers that seemed to follow the governor everywhere he went.

Staffers sounded the alarm. “Many people had raised the issue,” says one Walker staffer. In particular, there were murmurs about [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]’s campaign, which has just 30 people on staff, and “comments about [Jeb] Bush’s campaign being smaller than ours.”

The name that keeps popping up as being behind this hiring is the political consultant and campaign manager on the team, Rick Wiley.

Riley, based out of Austin, Texas, has been in the political world for a little while, and (among other jobs) held a spot as political director at the RNC. Many folks close to Walker were concerned about Wiley’s management style, his drastic increase of campaign staff, and other issues with Wiley personally. The campaign staff size jumping up to 90 people seemed to indicate they were more confident than perhaps they should have been following early successes.

And oh lord the gaffes.

Gaffes, weak campaign performances, and flip-flopping on issues caused poll numbers to plummet, and with that plummet came a shortage of money. In a quote from Wiley in POLITICO:

“It culminated with a trip through Texas, the three days leading up to Labor Day weekend, where … we’re supposed to raise half a mil and we brought in $184K,” Wiley said. “That, coupled with we were in the mail with [a] mailing to our donors, and that was the first time that [an internal] file had lost money. … So, at that point, we can say, ‘OK, we have a huge revenue problem.’”

Yeah, that can do it.

One last thing that is really going unsaid (except by our Dear Leader, Erick Erickson) is that Walker’s closest allies didn’t stay with his campaign – they went to the Super PAC. Why is this bad? The two entities can’t communicate whatsoever. So, election law prevented Walker from keeping in touch with those closest to him. I am not totally sure who on earth would have advised that, but it seems ill-advised at best.

And, all these issues coming together to kill his campaign royally sucks, because now the primary has lost the two of the most successful Republican governors in recent history. Having met and listened to Scott Walker and his stories in person, you can’t help but like his the genuine demeanor he has, and you want to wish him all the success in the world. And then life happens and things go terribly awry. It sucks.

Walker bowing out, however, lets all these issues come to light, and allows other candidates to learn from the mistakes made here. We still have a great field of candidates, and they are paying attention.

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