Scott Walker Dropping Out Of Presidential Race

Once a candidate that many believed could become the Republican nominee, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is dropping out of the race for President.

Scott Walker Speaking

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was once seen as one of the top prospects for the Republican Presidential nomination, is dropping out of the race in the wake of a summer that saw his campaign collapse:

Scott Walker plans to suspend his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday night, according to several sources.

The announcement, scheduled for 5 p.m. Central Time in Madison, comes on the heels of a new CNN poll that showed him registering as an asterisk in the latest national poll after a second straight lackluster performance in the GOP debate last week.

It’s a sudden and surprising fall for the Wisconsin governor, who led polls in Iowa for several months earlier this year after a well-received speech there in January that inspired both the party’s grassroots and its donor class. For months, he was viewed as a frontrunner for the GOP’s nomination, but he failed to consolidate support and did not live up to the early hype he inspired.

These reports have been independently confirmed by CNNThe New York Times, and The Washington Postand Walker’s campaign scheduled the press conference this afternoon at the last minute, which seems to be a fairly clear indication that these reports are true that we’ve reached the end of the line for the Wisconsin Governor’s bid for the White House. In may ways, the expected announcement today is both surprising and not surprising at all. It’s surprising simply because it has come so early in the process. Even with Walker’s campaign woes over the past several weeks, he still seemed to have a relatively stable campaign organization and a sizable campaign war chest. Additionally, since Walker was concentrating most of his campaign in neighboring Iowa, the travel costs for his campaign were likely relatively lower than they are for other candidates. Notwithstanding the fact that his performance in Wednesday’s debate was roundly criticized, just as his performance in the August 6th debate had been, it’s probable that he could have continued with at least some measure of a campaign for a little while longer. The fact that he’s ending his quest so abruptly is an indication that his recent bad performance in the polls, combined with his debate performance, had likely completely undermined the logic for his campaign to continue.

The collapse of Walker’s campaign is arguably the biggest story to come out of the Republican Presidential race so far other than the rise of Donald Trump and the other “non-political” candidates in the race, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Unlike former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who dropped out earlier this month, Walker was once a serious contender for the nomination and someone that was near the top of the polls for several months even before he actually entered the race. As late as mid-June, Walker was in the lead in Iowa, with more than a double digit lead over Jeb Bush and the other candidates, today he leaves the race with a 4.3% average in the Iowa polls. In New Hampshire, he was leading in the polls through much of the spring and competitive against Jeb Bush through most of the time until Trump entered the race in mid-June, with the latest polls he leaves the race with a 2.5% average. In the national polls, Walker was competitive with Bush right up through mid-June when his numbers started to collapse. In the post-debate polls released yesterday he came in at 3% and 0% respectively and leaves the race with a 1.8% average.  For a candidate who had been a hero on the right ever since he entered office in Wisconsin and started taking on the public employee unions in that state, it has been a tremendous fall, but one that was apparent for some time now.

In the end, it seems clear that Walker was not nearly as strong a candidate as his press clippings and the media coverage made him out to be. That became apparent even before he started his Presidential campaign when a press aide who had been critical of the Iowa Caucuses and made comments favorable toward immigration reform was forced to resign due to political pressure on Walker. The Governor also got in trouble when past comments he had made favorable toward immigration reform appeared to conflict with positions he was taking in the campaign. More recently, he took four different positions on the issue of birthright citizenship over the course of seven days in the wake of Donald Trump’s introduction of his immigration plan. All of this, along with his debate performances, was very different from the image that Walker had created since becoming Governor, and it quickly became obvious that the image of Scott Walker was nowhere near being the reality of Scott Walker. As Daniel Larison puts it, a bad candidate who was never able to live up the myth that had been created about him:

Walker’s decline isn’t really all that puzzling. He was treated as a “top tier” candidate months before he announced his campaign, and during that time expectations continued to be raised despite Walker’s obvious lack of preparation on national and international issues. Once he started campaigning in earnest, the actual candidate did not compare well with the imagined version of Walker that so many of his fans had created from what little they knew about him from his tenure in Madison. He failed to live up to a version of himself that never existed, and the reality of Walker turned out not to be very interesting.

In other words, nothing “happened” to Walker. His weaknesses as a national candidate were there for all to see, but most Republicans preferred not to see them until Walker made them impossible to ignore.

I have been saying  for quite awhile that Walker was 2016’s version of former Minnesota Govenror Tim Pawlenty, a Midwestern Governor who was successful at home but who didn’t play well on the stump and did not live up to the image that had been created for him. While I am surprised at how quickly the entire Potemkin Village collapse, I’m not surprised it happened.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. humanoid.panda says:

    As a former Madison resident, I have nothing but contempt and hatred for the man and his crusade to turn Wisconsin to Alabama with colder weather, but I do find strange new respect for him: most politicians are self-deluded enough to keep on running (and, on the GOP side, runnning on ever-more hateful tones) long after a normal person concludes that things are over. Walker cut the cord early, instead of switching to Jindal mode, so I guess props to him.

  2. Mu says:

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. At this rate Rick Santorum will make the big kids table by Thanksgiving.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Sounds to me like someone from the Koch Bros et al told Walker the facts of life, i.e. the checkbooks were closed and he’d be on his own. The question is where does that money go. Bridgegate just took out the Prez of Untied Airlines, who’s going to bet Christie isn’t next? Rubio’s turning out to be a cipher. Bush and Kasich seem to be the real hopes. It’ll be interesting to see if Kasich starts to act like he’s got big money.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    Scott Walker has a charisma deficiency, and he was incapable of getting anyone in the base or the media to pay attention to him.

    Frankly though, I think Donald Trump is the cause of Scott’s early demise. For the better part of 2 months Trump has sucked the oxygen out of every Republican room he’s been in. Walker, like just about every other candidate doesn’t know how to get around that.

    In a “normal” campaign season, Walker’s having busted liberal public employee unions, and cut spending on Wisconsin’s state university system, would have at the very least, placed him in good standing as things got under way, but from a personality standpoint Walker would probably have ended up in the place he is today (leaving) – though it (the end) might have been pushed out another 3 months if Trump hadn’t ‘happened.’

  5. ptfe says:

    My guess: he’s getting a deal to throw his support (and ample cash reserves) behind someone else — Jeb! or Rubio or Kasich — in an effort to take down Trump. Walker thinks he has a future in national politics, but he’s been shown the writing on the wall for 2016. It just won’t do to (a) be one of the early campaign busts and (b) hang on and burn that cash while “an outsider” takes over the primary.

    Look for Walker as a VP or in a discussion for a cabinet post well beyond his capacity.

  6. Mark Ivey says:

    He got TRUMPED yo……..

  7. ernieyeball says:

    “The short answer is money,” said a supporter of Mr. Walker’s who was briefed on the decision. “He’s made a decision not to limp into Iowa.” NYT

    What a chump. It’s ony 300 miles from Madison to Des Moines. If Scotty was true to his namesake he would have hiked in via the Shoeleather Express.

    Dan Walker announced his candidacy for Governor of Illinois in 1971 and attracted wide attention by walking 1,197 miles (1,926 km) across Illinois in 1971. WikiP

  8. Moosebreath says:

    I am quite surprised, as I thought last spring that Walker was a decent bet, based on his anti-union calling card plus being broadly acceptable to the entire party. It seems that wasn’t enough.

  9. James Joyner says:

    I’ve got somewhat mixed views as well. My first impression of Walker was formed from the brouhaha with the teachers’ union and it was not a good one. But it’s a bit bizarre to me that the first two candidates out—Perry and Walker—and many of the candidates doing so poorly that they’re relegated to the pity debates are those who are objectively most prepared to be president while those doing the best are rank amateurs with no governing experience.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: Having watched the last couple of cycles, I’m failing to see why this strikes you as unexpected, much less bizarre. Patience. Establishment money still has plenty of time to buy the nomination.

  11. James Pearce says:

    He’s young enough that he can try again at another time. (If he doesn’t resign his governorship to do a Palin-style cash-in.)

  12. steve s says:

    @James Joyner: 53% of the polling in the GOP right now goes to a) Trump (24%) b) Fiorina (15%) c) Carson (14%).

    Noted without comment.

  13. elocs says:

    Now Walker will be able to turn his attention on dismantling Wisconsin and giving as much of our wealth to the rich and his corporate masters who pull his strings. My bet is that the Kochs told him, “it’s over”. This just goes to show how quickly a front runner can fall from grace. I guess Walker was a little hard of hearing when he claimed that god told him to run for president.

  14. Andre Kenji says:


    Frankly though, I think Donald Trump is the cause of Scott’s early demise.

    I think that Scott´s is to blame for his early demise. He never articulated a message nor a vision, and he can´t show anything good that he has done in Wisconsin, with the exception of annoying the Teachers´ Unions.

  15. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    From Walker’s announcement earlier today:

    “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,” Walker said. “With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.”

    “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,” Walker added.

    It looks like Walker is looking for other candidates to join him in limiting the choices of those “who are objectively most prepared to be president,” so the establishment coalescing can begin. It will be interesting to see who the Koch’s have directed him to support.

  16. Nikki says:

    @James Joyner:

    But it’s a bit bizarre to me that the first two candidates out—Perry and Walker—and many of the candidates doing so poorly that they’re relegated to the pity debates are those who are objectively most prepared to be president while those doing the best are rank amateurs with no governing experience.

    How many years/decades has the party spent conditioning the base to believe that government == bad, corporations == good? Politicians == bad, CEOs == good? Washington insiders == bad, Washington outsiders == good?

    The current top 3 GOP frontrunners have never held public office and have no governing experience whatsoever.

    And, yet, you’re surprised.

  17. anjin-san says:

    But it’s a bit bizarre to me that the first two candidates out—Perry and Walker—and many of the candidates doing so poorly that they’re relegated to the pity debates are those who are objectively most prepared to be president while those doing the best are rank amateurs with no governing experience.

    I’m sorry James, but you are delusional about what your party is. I hate to say it, but in your own way, you are as bad as the crazies.

  18. argon says:

    @James Joyner: Sorry but that’s reflective of the state of the GOP today. Years of lip service to the nut core, genuflecting to the 1%, and contempt for governing created an angry, incoherent base. I suspect that the percentage of voters identifying as GOP is going to hit an all time low.

    Charles P. Peirce’s characterization Walker, “the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin”, is spot on. Now if only Wisconsin could dump “the zombie-eyed granny starver”, aka Paul Ryan, perhaps the state will make a comeback.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:

    those doing the best are rank amateurs with no governing experience.

    Republicans have no interest in and are incapable of governing…so why does that matter even a little bit.

  20. M. Bouffant says:

    @James Pearce: His hero Reagan had to run twice, & spent much of his time when not campaigning giving speeches & ingratiating himself w/ the G.O.P.

    But to steal from Lloyd Bentsen, I saw Reagan in person once, & Governor, you’re no Ronald Reagan.

  21. C. Clavin says:

    Donald Trump is one step closer to the nomination.
    Today’s Republucans should be so proud of what they’ve done with what used to be a great political party.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    Did anyone really think that big ol’ Koch whore was going to be President?
    He has done serious damage to the Wisconsin economy…I doubt he could carry his own state.

  23. Lisa Allen-Charles says:

    One thing that has always upset me is the practice of elected politicians running a campaign for a new elected office while they already occupy one.

    Walker is a sitting governor. That is a job that demands full attention. There is no way that someone can run for President (which is the most demanding level of campaign) while faithfully carrying out all of the duties of a governor–though, of course, everyone who does such a thing claims to be able to devote 100% to each job.

    Elected pols who do this (and there are many nowadays, and their numbers keep growing) cheat their citizens, their electorate, and the public purse.

    I call on all of the other currently-elected officials of all parties to either resign from their current office or withdraw from their campaigns for a new office while they are currently serving in an existing one.

  24. MarkedMan says:

    James, it is 2015. People who are interested in governing are Democrats. Young people know the score, and the older Repubs who were responsible have been driven from office. I’m amazed that you are amazed.

  25. Ron Beasley says:

    I am not at all surprised. Walker was always a not very bright slimy little weasel with the charisma of a slug. I suspect he called one or both of the Koch brothers this weekend and they told him the party was over and the check book was closed.

  26. ernieyeball says:

    @Lisa Allen-Charles:..I call on all of the other currently-elected officials of all parties to either resign from their current office or withdraw from their campaigns for a new office while they are currently serving in an existing one.

    You might as well call for the return of Jesus Christ.
    You will get the same results.
    It ain’t gonna’ happen!

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @ernieyeball: It also indicates how little work Trump actually brings to his “empire”, nu? If he’s able to run it at the same time as he’s running for POTUS?

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist: And all this time I thought he was running for King.

  29. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: Maybe not. He sure doesn’t give the impression he’s spending a lot of time prepping for political appearances and debates.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    Very entertaining from Vox on Trump, the next Republican nominee for President:

  31. J-Dub says:

    On the bright side, Walker now has time to go back and get that college degree.

  32. DrDaveT says:

    @C. Clavin:Beyond entertaining — this is the quote of the month:

    And I realized that factchecking Donald Trump is a category error. It’s like polishing a duck.

  33. J-Dub says:

    @C. Clavin: Is there a single issue where Trump is not downright dangerous to the country, or hell, to the world?

  34. gVOR08 says:

    @J-Dub: There’s no reason to believe Trump takes seriously a single word he’s saying. And even if you do take him at face value, he’s no worse than the rest of them.

  35. Liberal Cpaitalist. says:


    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    Came here to say this. Left happy.