A pattern of disorganization, malfunction, and missed opportunities in Scott Walker’s campaign was a pivotal factor in the decision of the Wisconsin governor to abruptly end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination late Monday afternoon.
Not since New York’s liberal Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's initial strong showing in 1960 (only to fizzle out) has a GOP candidate caught on and burnt out as early as the conservative Walker.
Where polls earlier this year showed the Badger State governor in the top tier of GOP hopefuls in 2016, Walker had plummeted to the less than a half a percentage point among likely Republican voters in the CNN poll following the debate Thursday.
In a series of interviews shortly after Walker’s surprise exit, both committed supporters and would-be supporters of the onetime conservative favorite for president revealed to me the chaotic nature of his presidential campaign.
“Nothing happened here,” said Connie Schmett, a member of Walker’s steering committee in Iowa and Polk County chairman for Mitt Romney in the 2008 and 2012 Iowa caucuses. “Nothing was going on and many of us didn’t know when Gov. Walker was in the state.”
She recalled when Walker made his last campaign stop in Iowa on Sept. 18, after canceling a long-planned appearance at the nationally watched Republican conclave in Mackinac Island, Mich. “A number of us didn’t know about it and called the national headquarters to complain,” she said, adding, “I can’t remember the last time our steering committee met.”
Schmett, with husband and past Polk County GOP Chairman Kim Schmett, was an early supporter of the Wisconsin governor, told me she had “no clue” Walker would withdraw from the race Monday and that she learned about it “through a phone call from a friend in Washington not associated with the campaign.”
Similar stories of campaign stumbles emerged from Pennsylvania, initially thought to be prime Walker country. Many conservatives admired the governor for facing down public sector unions to implement pension and health care employees for most public employees.
At the annual summit of conservatives known as the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC) in April, the complaint that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett “missed his chance to be another Walker” by not pushing similar reforms was voiced repeatedly. (Last fall, as Republicans were picking up seats in both houses of the state legislature, Corbett lost badly to Democrat Tom Wolf.)
“But as hard as we tried, we never got a commitment from Gov. Walker’s campaign for him to appear at the PLC in ’16,” GOP state committeeman and longtime conservative activist Lowman Henry told me, “We all tried repeatedly to get involved and the campaign was unresponsive. It's a shame. Of all the presidential candidates, he has the best record of actual accomplishment.”
Another Walker admirer in Pennsylvania who tried several times to enlist for the campaign was Ann Womble, former Republican chairman of Lancaster County (the second most Republican county in the Keystone State).
“I offered to head up Walker operation in Lancaster back in February, and heard nothing after repeated attempts,” she told me, “By contrast, the moment I offered my services to Carly Fiorina’s campaign, I was welcomed and given clear directives.
“Gov. Walker has some things to teach other governors about bold reforms and stick-to-itiveness, but this is not his time to run for president.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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