Why did Walker Walk?

Scott Walker had the right last name. The young governor of Wisconsin not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. He challenged the unions in his state, and in the course of only a few years, battled to victory through three gubernatorial elections, including a nasty recall.

For Republicans looking for a fearless fighter, Scott Walker had earned his credentials. Add his national buzz, and he was expected to plunge into the Republican presidential primaries early on. He delayed his actual declaration as a candidate, but by then he was already outdistancing  the crowded Republican field in Iowa. So how did it happen that Scott Walker -- one of the last candidates to officially throw his hat in the ring -- surprisingly become one of the first to pick it up and walk away?    

Even in this unpredictable presidential primary, Walker’s reversal of political fortune deserves some consideration beyond that of pundits scratching their egg-heads. It wasn’t long ago that Democrat Party bigwigs thought Scott threatening enough to falsely characterize him as a “scary” guy who never even attended college.

In the wake of Walker’s suspended campaign, Matt Vespa of the Townhall/Hot Air Poll observed: 

(Walker) was positioned perfectly within the party as a fighter, someone who could unite the conservative and establishment wing and has a record (and back-story) to carry a national campaign.

His campaign did not run out of money or of will. Yet Walker quickly slid from the double digits to the limbo-land of middle-men like Cruz, Rubio, and Huckabee. By the time he threw in the towel, pollsters had placed the former Iowan front-runner in minus territory.   

Prior to the second debate, Walker surely realized that his performance would make or break him. After three grueling hours, he must have been in despair. CNN’s panel of questioners had all but ignored him. Nor had he been able to forcefully insinuate himself into the general discussion in the manner of Rand Paul or Chris Christie. There are few things more humiliating to a candidate than being considered neither controversial nor competitive enough to merit serious attention.

After the debate, Walker railed against the unfairness of the format. It was painful to see his frustration make him look like a sore loser, as he groused about how Carly Fiorina had been preordained as the darling of the debate. 

It was also startling to observe the contrast between Walker’s short, sober-toned withdrawal speech and the diatribe that had marked the official start of his presidential run. Standing before a roomful of enthusiastic supporters, Walker had delivered a rather boring, long-winded, rambling address, riddled with platitudes. His handlers had perhaps settled on promoting their candidate as a nice, ordinary, hardworking guy, an Everyman, a small town minister’s son made good, a modern-day mid-western David battling the Goliaths of greed. 

Walker had no trouble passing himself off as one of us. He wasn’t like hypocritical Hillary Clinton, pretending to understand ordinary “everyday” Americans. He was the real deal. He even went to great lengths to remind us how he and his wife, Tonette, clipped coupons for Kohl’s department store by way of stretching every dollar. By the end of his speech on that very warm day, Walker was stoked. He was also soaked. When he raised his arms to his well-wishers in a gesture of victory, there were two large circles of sweat staining the armpits of his (Kohl’s?) shirt.

Well, that could happen to anybody. But the more troubling subsequent news for Scott Walker is that Republicans don’t seem inclined to put just “anybody” in the White House. In 2016. We’re not looking for a bosom buddy; we want someone larger than our own ordinary lives.  

The more popular “outsiders,” Trump, Carson, and Fiorina -- a millionaire, a world-renowned surgeon, and a hi-tech female CEO – seem more suited to fill this bill. Besides, Walker is hardly an outsider. He may not have legislated from DC, but he’s a political animal still. And while his exploits in office made him a national figure, they also made him some powerful enemies.

In a general election, the unions might have come out strongly against a Scott Walker presidency. We’ll never know, of course. In general, the Wisconsin Governor, who had been a big fish in a small pond,  got swamped when he swam in more crowded and  treacherous political waters. 

Did Donald Trump play a personal role in Walker’s downfall? One wouldn’t think so from the effusive praise he dumped on his former colleague. A really nice young man, doing a great job in Wisconsin, and all that. As it is, Trump talks about his competitors as though they’re all apprentices auditioning for his show. When they hang it up, he seems inclined to let bygones be bygones. Now if everybody else would just drop out, too!

Walker has returned to his important day job. But he‘s not necessarily forever done with national politics. Joe Biden aspired to the presidency twice and dropped out both times with abysmal numbers. Yet now the DNC is salivating at the prospect of his entering the race again. And even Al Gore is said to be hanging in there -- like a punched paper chad. Will the excitement never end?