It’s mea culpa time. Back in June, we published power rankings saying that Scott Walker was the Republican candidate most likely to capture his party’s presidential nomination in 2016. Monday, in the most stunning moment of an already unpredictable campaign, Walker dropped out of the race.
To quote another former presidential candidate: “Oops.”
So where did we go wrong? No single theory or explanation fully explains Walker’s swift descent after looking so promising at the beginning of the year. But collectively, the ones we list below tell the story. In short, a candidate who looked ideal on paper turned out to be anything but in the current tumultuous political environment—and he and his campaign didn’t handle adversity well.
“Washington outsider” got trumped by “political outsider.”
Walker had the profile of a conservative favorite: the regular-guy governor with a Baptist preacher father who had taken on, and defeated, mortal enemies of the conservative movement outside D.C. But he was still a conventional politician at a time when conservative voters are desperate for anything genuinely different. In short, he was never going to out-Trump Donald Trump or out-Carson Ben Carson.
Republican voters simply haven’t cared about a record of conservative achievement—at least not yet, during the time Walker’s campaign lasted. They have gravitated instead toward candidates short on government experience but long on incendiary rhetoric. Walker’s attempts to court them grew increasingly feeble: Promises to “wreak havoc on Washington” (which had become the governor’s new motto at the end of his run) don’t break through the media clutter with the same force as Trump’s riffs about rapists and murderers crossing the country’s southern border.