Photo by Bill Lueders
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the race for President not with a bang but a whimper.
He abandoned his quest to become the Republican nominee late Monday afternoon in a small, drab, windowless room in a downtown Madison hotel before about 60 reporters. There were no visible supporters present, besides his son Alex, and no vocal opponents, aside from one interloper who clapped when Walker announced, “I will suspend my campaign, immediately.”
Walker, the second major Republican candidate after former Texas Governor Rick Perry to drop out of the race, once led his rivals in the Before A Single Vote is Cast sweepstakes. But two disappointing debate performances and a few gaffes, like his support for walling off the Canadian border to keep terrorists out, sent his poll numbers reeling.
As current frontrunner Donald Trump gobbled up the spotlight, Walker’s campaign unraveled with surprising speed. A CNN poll over the weekend showed that Walker’s support had fallen to below .5 percent. It had been 25 percent in February.
Clearly, it wasn’t Walker’s penchant for saying things that aren’t true that did him in, given that the frontrunner is the truth-challenged Trump, followed by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who fabricated a claim about a Planned Parenthood video during the second debate.
What did Walker in is that he failed to inspire. But even in defeat, he was still trying.
Walker, in keeping with the fabulism that has marked his political career, cast his decision to quit in self-congratulatory terms. For the umpteenth and probably not final time, he invoked his political hero.
“Ronald Reagan was good for America because he was an optimist,” Walker said. “Sadly, the debate taking place in the Republican Party today is not focused on that optimistic view of America. Instead, it has drifted into personal attacks.”
Walker, who based his bid for the presidency on attacking such bogeymen as “union bosses”—he made a last-ditch effort to save his candidacy by pledging to take the union busting he led in Wisconsin to the federal level—presented his choice as a tonic to this trend.
“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,” he said.
“I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current frontrunner. This is critically important to the future of our party, and more important to the future of our country.”
Yet even in singling out the current frontrunner in this criticism, Walker concluded his listing of Republican talking points—a commitment to work, an end to dependence on government, a strong military—by echoing Trump’s dark slogan about American no longer being a great nation.
“These ideas will help us win the election,” Walker said. “More important, these ideas will make our country great again.”
Walker concluded by thanking his supporters, staff, family, and God, then left without answering questions. The whole thing was over in four minutes.
Here is the question I was hoping to ask: “Has your failure as a candidate caused you to question the tremendous amount of conflict and division you helped create in Wisconsin, and tried to capitalize on as a candidate? Was it worth it, to have a state so divided?”
Walker’s answer, I know, would have been unsatisfactory, but perhaps still enlightening, like his bid for President.