Walker’s exit is now nearly certain to set off a fierce scramble for his big-money backers, led by the Ricketts family that has emerged as one of the GOP’s most powerful financial contributors.
Experts saw potential gain for conservative candidates like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee as well as center-right contenders such as Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Jeb Bush. His final descent was the product of lackluster debate performances where he could barely be bothered to use his allotted time, much less demand more. In what was likely his last major push on the campaign trail, Walker had gone back to the wellspring of his rise to national prominence and played up his opposition to unions throughout September. Several Walker donors on Monday, including Hubbard, said they learned about Walker’s decision from reporters rather than from the candidate himself. “You go down pretty fast when that happens”. Other low-polling Republicans may well pull out in the weeks ahead. They said he had modified his positions on issues to score political points, which undercut the very basis of his campaign – that he was unintimidated by political fallout.
As Walker was calling it quits during a news conference at home in Wisconsin, his national finance co-chairman, Anthony Scaramucci, was fielding calls from five campaigns including from three candidates themselves.
“It was personally hard, but you know when it’s over”, said Cliff Hurst, who was Walker’s New Hampshire co-chairman.
“I believe that I’m being called to lead by helping to clear the field. Instead of talking about how bad things are, we want to hear about how we can make them better for everyone”.
“This is fundamentally important to the future of our party, and, more important, the future of the country“.
The governor called some of his top supporters earlier Monday afternoon informing them of his decision, according to one Walker insider.
Walker’s standing eroded as he struggled through weak debate performances, a series of awkward policy questions, and ceded ground to outsiders like Trump and Ben Carson among conservatives.
Sources close to the campaign described a division between those who worked with Walker on previous campaigns and had strong Wisconsin ties and those whom he brought in from Washington.
Instead he was supplanted by Trump, a billionaire braggart with a thick New York accent, a history of liberal views, and little interest in religion. But “As soon as he said, ‘I’m the frontrunner, ‘ the bar went way up and he couldn’t get over it”.
“Shocked is the best way I could put it”, said Brian Westrate, chairman of the 3rd Congressional District Republican Party.
Republican strategist Liz Mair, who was briefly hired by Walker before being forced out over her criticism of Iowa’s role in the nominating process, listed an array of causes to Walker’s demise on Twitter, including “misunderstanding the GOP base, its priorities and stances”, “pandering”, and “flip-flopping”.