During a press conference on Monday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced he is dropping out of the presidential race, giving voters more opportunity to focus on a smaller number of candidates and a “positive conservative”. Walker said debate among Republicans had shifted to personal attacks and away from the basic conservative principles of limited government and a strong military, which he urged the party to put front and center in the GOP presidential race. Walker becomes the second Republican to exit the 2016 race; Rick Perry dropped out a few weeks ago after many staff members quit the campaign.
The governor called some of his top supporters earlier Monday afternoon informing them of his decision, according to one Walker insider. This person said Walker’s recent plummet in the polls was a big factor in his decision-making. Walker encouraged others in the Republican field, which now stands at 15 candidates with his departure, to consider dropping out of the race as well so that more voters could coalesce around a viable candidate. Moving forward, Walker said the best use of his and the party’s time would be to dedicate all resources to the eventual nominee.
I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner,” said Walker, referencing businessman Donald Trump. “This is fundamentally important to the future of our party, and, more important, the future of the country.”
Rick Perry became the first Republican to drop out of the 2016 race. It indicates the start of a winnowing process of a field that once numbered 17 candidates — many of whom have struggled to gain oxygen in a summer in which headlines and polls have been dominated by Trump. With Walker’s departure, the field stands at 15 candidates.
The New York Times first reported Walker’s plans to drop out. Those intentions were confirmed to CNN by a senior campaign official, a GOP strategist close to the campaign, and a senior GOP adviser with knowledge of his plans. Walker was hurt by lackluster performances in the first two Republican debates. And his poll numbers suffered: In a CNN/ORC poll released Sunday, Walker failed to garner even one-half of 1% nationally among likely GOP primary voters.
Walker was also hurt by reversals on a host of controversial issues — including birthright citizenship, on which he gave three different answers in the span of seven days. Those reversals were particularly damaging to his outsider image as non-politicians like Trump, Carson and Carly Fiorina climbed the polls. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, also a GOP presidential contender, said Walker made the decision that was “best for him and his family.”
You are down to 15. You got three basketball teams. The bottom-line is Scott made a decision best for him and his family,” Graham said. “He’s a very accomplished governor and it shows you just how hard it is running with this many people. That’s what it shows.”
Before the debate, a cadre of Walker supporters in his home state of Wisconsin urged the governor to be more genuine. Walker had made taking on labor unions a cornerstone of his presidential bid, and union reaction to his decision to drop out was swift. Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota broadcasting magnate who was a top Walker contributor and is among the donors to the Koch network, said he’s disappointed that Walker failed to break through on the national stage.