Today, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced he would end his presidential campaign. Given his previous position in the polls, Governor Walker’s decision to end his campaign this early is a shocking one. His collapse may well be one of the most epic of any presidential candidate in recent history. When he announced his candidacy, Walker was considered one of the top-tier candidates. His successful battle with the public-sector unions in Wisconsin made him a hero to the conservative grassroots nationwide, as did winning three elections in five years in a state that generally leans Democratic. He certainly seemed like a winner: An experienced governor with strong conservative principles who could get things done in a state that didn’t favor Republicans.
However, once he hit the national stage, things began to go sour. Walker stumbled almost immediately, seeming to flip-flop on a number of issues, including right to work. Unfortunately, one of the issues he seemed uncertain on was immigration, a core issue to the conservative base. His movement there made him seem less like a conservative alternative to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and more like a kindred spirit. When challenged on it, rather than lucidly explaining his changed position, he argued about whether it was truly a flip-flop.
Since Walker’s national brand was based on toughness and directness, this seeming wishy-washiness severely hurt him. Many commentators will blame his collapse on the rise of Donald Trump, but in fact Walker’s self-inflicted wounds may have helped give Trump the opening he needed. Rather than being a victim of Trump, Walker’s mistakes contributed to Trump’s rapid rise, since he was unable to capitalize on his initial opportunity.
Scott Walker is an excellent governor, and it’s sad to see a candidate with his extensive experience out of the race so early. While it is easy to blame his departure on the success of other candidates, it’s important to realize – as with Rick Perry before him – that he bears much of the responsibility for his own campaign’s collapse. Walker should have been able to easily dispatch many of the candidates currently sitting at the top of the polls, but instead, he dispatched his own chances.