Right now, Scott Walker is putting the final nail in his own coffin in a live press conference, if the undisputed reports from the New York Times and Twitter are to be believed. On the day that Donald Trump announced, Jeb Bush was at 14% and Scott Walker was at 13% in the RCP average, as the two men were first and second in the polls. Trump’s meteoric rise in the polls has come almost exclusively at the expense of these two men – with an assist from the former supporters of Mike Huckabee, roughly half of whom have fled to the Trump camp.
While much has been made of the impact Trump has had on Jeb Bush’s campaign (and it has been considerable), the most obvious and direct casualty of the Trump phenomenon has been the campaign of Scott Walker, which has fallen all the way below 2% in the most recent polling. And thus, Republican voters have happily traded a man who actually fights for conservative ideals (and has done so successfully, collecting an impressive array of liberal skulls along the way), for a man fights against conservative candidates by insulting them childishly.
In the final analysis, of course, it seems likely that the Walker campaign would have imploded under its own weight eventually anyway. The most persuasive reason for that belief is this: anyone who quits in September, after watching the circus the Republican primary became in 2012, did not really want to be President super badly in the first place. And as history has repeatedly shown (featuring most recently the Fred Thompson 2008 campaign and the Rick Perry 2012 campaign), the most important qualification for a Presidential candidate is that he has to have a burning, never ending conviction that he would be the best President in the field, and an equally firm desire to get the job. Historically, candidates who have to be recruited or cajoled into running do a fantastically terrible job of it.
In addition, the Walker campaign made a number of surprising missteps that were frankly somewhat stunning in retrospect. Of all the candidates in the field, Walker laid claim to being far and away the most battle tested of the group, after suffering through three bruising elections in Wisconsin that drew national attention. However, his campaign didn’t seem to be scalable to a national race to any degree at all. He stumbled with the media right out of the gate, openly pandered to a group of feckless voters on immigration (and then lacked the background knowledge to even explain his positions), and had no clue how to grasp the national conversation away from Trump after he entered the stage.
When Walker first entered the race, I talked to Wisconsin people who I trust (off the record) who were fans of his work in Wisconsin and had seen him up close. They said to me, “Walker is great, but the main concern is the people he surrounds himself with. He can get away with it in Wisconsin because he doesn’t know how to delegate well and thus doesn’t really have to take advice from anyone. We’ll see how that plays nationally.” The answer, it turns out, is “not especially well.”
I’m personally saddened both by how the Walker campaign has gone and that he is out of the race. Although frankly, if he isn’t committed enough to stick out some September hardship in the polls, then it probably is for the best that he go back to Wisconsin and focus on his job there.
Ultimately, Scott Walker has a record of political achievement that almost no one in America (including Donald Trump, who has won literally nothing other than a poll) can match. He rose through the ranks of an extremely liberal county to take the helm of a blue/purple state – and has refused to treat himself as a caretaker of that office. He has from day one in office taken the fight to liberals in Wisconsin and has structurally reformed the politics of the entire state, to the benefit of the conservative movement. He has taken on third rail after third rail and every time he was told that he faced inevitable defeat, he emerged victorious.
Sadly, the Presidency was one step too far for Scott Walker, and that’s ultimately nothing to be ashamed of.