Scott Walker’s decision to drop out of the presidential race shows the Republican Party is narrowing in on a nominee pretty quickly.
Coming right on the heels of Rick Perry’s decision to drop out of the race for the Republican nomination for the presidency, one time Iowa poll leader Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the race on Monday.
There are a lot of theories about why this happened floating around the Internet right now. And while it will be interesting to read the campaign post mortems, it’s not that hard to see why Walker decided to quit.
Walker may have been a conservative hero during the past recalls and showdowns in Madison, but that popularity simply never seemed to translate into significant support outside of Wisconsin. Walker struggled both with endorsements (only three GOP House member ever formally endorsed him) and raising money outside of his unregulated “SuperPAC.” Add in his declining national poll numbers and widely panned debate performances and you can see why it made sense for him to quit.
And yes it did make sense to throw in the towel this far before Iowa. As Seth Masket recently pointed out it’s the talented politicians that tend to drop out early. Why? Well because:
Precisely because Walker and Perry are serious politicians. This is a career for them. Walker, in particular, still has several years left in his term (in an office that isn’t term-limited), and he might make a run for U.S. Senate some day. He might also think seriously about a presidential run further down the road.
He probably could have strung out his presidential campaign a few more months on a shoestring budget, and maybe even found a few eccentric donors to back such an effort. But he’s a smart enough politician to see that probably wouldn’t have succeeded, and he’d have been humiliated in the early primaries and caucuses and just angered some donors who would have seen him as a waste of money. Better to show some discretion than go all in on a suicide mission, especially when he’s only in his mid-40s.
Think about the decision to drop out or not as being a cost versus benefits analysis. Since it doesn’t costs a Ben Carson or Donald Trump anything to stay in why not? Especially if you seem to be having as much fun as Trump is. As Masket puts it:
Compare that to some of the other candidates, who really have nothing to lose by staying in the race. These are not serious politicians and they have no political bridges to burn. Trump may have damaged his brand a bit with his nativist outbursts, but he still obviously knows how to draw a crowd. Carson and Fiorina will not harm their political futures by losing in primaries. Even Ted Cruz can stay in for a while; it’s not like he’s about to get anything major accomplished in the U.S. Senate. He’s already burned what bridges he had there; his whole career is about making bombastic claims from large daises.
In other words, professionals in card games and politics know when it’s time to cut your losses.
As I see it the Republican field is already rapidly turning into three main groups. First there is the emerging group front runners in the form of plausible nominees like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich who are pulling ahead in the form of fundraising and endorsements. Then there’s a group of possible but highly unlikely nominees in the form of Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Santorum. They probably won’t win, but they still fit the mold of the type of people who win major party endorsements in the modern era. Then there’s the last group of everyone else who either lack the qualifications that all major party nominees have had since World War II (like Donald Trump) or are two far out of step with their party to win the nomination (like Rand Paul).
In other words don’t be surprised if more Republicans drop out in between now and Halloween as the Republicans Party is rapidly winnowing the field of potential nominees. In fact it’s quite possible that the Republican Party could coalesce around a nominee before Iowa, as they did with George W. Bush in 2000.
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Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP