Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With that in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner. This is fundamentally important to the future of the party and — ultimately — to the future of our country.
Part of this is, of course, Walker sloughing off responsibility for simply not being able to get people excited about his candidacy. His decision to drop out of the race wasn't about the fact that he was at zero percent in a CNN poll that was released Sunday; it was a selfless decision for the good of the party. Righto.
But, regardless of his motivations, what Walker said is both true and rarely spoken about by candidates leaving races.
Walker rightly diagnoses that a crowded field — particularly a field jam-packed with elected officials — works to Trump's benefit. (Walker never used Trump's name in his announcement Monday night, but there's not a whole heck of a lot of doubt about whom he was talking about.) Trump has a hard ceiling — probably in the low- to mid-30s — in the Republican field because of the (still) large number of Republicans who say they would never vote for him. That's not enough to win a one-on-one race, but it's plenty to hold on as the front-runner in a field of 15 candidates — many of whom are consistently taking between zero and 3 or 4 percent in national and early-state polls.
This graphic, built by The Washington Post's Philip Bump, tells the story of Trump — and the rest — nicely. Pay special attention to all those gray lines, which represent candidates who are in the great middle of this race.
Although Walker is totally correct about the need to thin the field to focus the race on Trump and a handful of other candidates, it's also hard to imagine that his plea will move any of his former rivals to reconsider.
Candidates such as Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham have either not moved or moved downward since the race started. That's the same trajectory Walker followed — although no one dropped as far as fast as he did. But, none of them — with the potential exception of Paul, who wants to make sure he can get reelected to the Senate in 2016 — look at all likely to leave the race anytime soon.
To run for president is to believe in an almost-impossible idea: that out of everyone in the country, you are uniquely positioned to speak for all of us. For people who have reached that conclusion (which is everyone left in the Republican field) presumably, it is hard to be convinced otherwise.
"All we need to do is start moving in Iowa." "Iowa doesn't matter; it's all about New Hampshire." "Hey, we haven't finished last in a vote yet!" And so on and so forth. (The best example of this self-delusion was when Joe Lieberman, who finished fifth in the 2004 New Hampshire Democratic primary, announced that he had come in a "three-way tie for third place.")
So, yes, Walker's call to thin the herd will fall on deaf ears. But that doesn't mean he's wrong.
Scott Walker's full statement
As a kid, I was drawn to Ronald Reagan because he was a Republican and a conservative. But most of all, I admired him because of his eternal optimism in the American people.
That thought came into my head when we were all standing at the Reagan Library last Wednesday. President Reagan was good for America because he was an optimist.
Sadly, the debate taking place in the Republican party today is not focused on that optimistic view of America. Instead, it has drifted into personal attacks.
In the end, I believe that voters want to be for something and not against someone. Instead of talking about how bad things are, we want to hear about how we can make them better for everyone.
We need to get back to the basics of our party:
We are the party that believes that people create jobs — not the government — and the best way to grow the economy is to get the government out of the way and build it from the ground up.
We are the party that believes that the way to measure success in government is by how many people are no longer dependent on the government - because we ultimately believe in the dignity of work.
We are the party that believes that a strong military leads to peace through strength and that will protect our children and future generations - we believe that good will triumph over evil.
We are the party that believes in the American people - and not the federal government.
These ideas will help us win the election next fall and — more importantly — these ideas will help make our country great again.
To refocus the debate will require leadership. While I was sitting in church yesterday, the pastor's words reminded me that the Bible is full of stories about people who were called to be leaders in unusual ways.
Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With that in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.
I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner.
This is fundamentally important to the future of the party and — ultimately — to the future of our country.
This is a difficult decision as so many wonderful people stepped up to support our efforts. Tonette and I are so very thankful for the many outstanding volunteers and the excellent staff who helped us throughout the campaign. You have become like family to us.
And speaking of family, I want to personally thank my wife Tonette — who has been a rock — as well as our amazing sons Matt and Alex. I thank my parents, my brother David and his family - and all of our other family and friends for their love and support.
Most of all, I want to thank God for His abundant grace. Win or lose, it is more than enough for any of us. Thank you.