It is unfortunate that Scott Walker is dropping out of the race, but I’m not surprised at this turn of events. He is this cycle’s Rick Perry: a solid governor with a strong record on which to run, but not adequately prepared for the heightened pressure and scrutiny of a presidential race. Governors make the mistake of thinking that entering the presidential field is like moving up from Triple-A baseball to the big leagues. No—it is an order of magnitude harder than that.
There’s a reason why most GOP nominees of the last two generations are people who have run on a national ticket before. Just witness how much better Rick Perry was this time than last time. He figured it out and came with a better-prepared game. Too late, however. Even Huckabee is better this time around, and he was pretty good before as a retail candidate in many ways. I’ve seen Huckabee in person, too, and I’ve seldom seen someone who can connect with an audience as fully and easily as he does. Too bad his appeal is limited by his own choosing. Only Santorum seems not to have improved on his first race, and the fact that he finished “second” four years ago really just shows how weak and unprepared that field was.
Carly Fiorina, who has clearly studied the issues carefully and thought deeply about how to talk to the media and position herself in debates, is just beginning to get the intense scrutiny and criticism that comes with a rapid emergence. More on her prospects coming soon.
Meanwhile, Michael Walsh blames the GOP consultant class for Walker’s poor showing. I’m always prepared to hate the consultant class by default, but I am not sure it is the best explanation in this case. Consultants certainly blow a lot of races and ruin their candidates (that probably applies to Fiorina’s 2010 manager in the California Senate race). But at the presidential level the buck stops with the candidate. I came away from seeing Walker give a speech and answer questions in Washington a couple years ago, and my dominant thought was, “This guy isn’t ready. He better get ready soon.” He didn’t. Not nearly enough.
PAUL ADDS: I agree with this analysis. Walker wasn’t ready to be a presidential candidate. However, I suspect that he is ready to be a capable president, which is a very different matter.
JOHN adds: I, too, am sorry to see Walker go. I think it is unfortunate that the first two candidates to drop out of the race–Rick Perry and Scott Walker–came from what would should be the most promising category: solid conservatives with excellent track records as governor. It is counter-intuitive, to say the least, that Perry and Walker are gone, while Rick Santorum, John Kasich, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore are still in the race. Not to mention Donald Trump.
Walker is getting criticized as a candidate, and I guess his failure to register in the polls speaks for itself. But I saw him speak to a large room full of conservatives last spring, and he blew the crowd away. It was a sharp contrast with the first time I saw him, during the recall campaign, when he was excellent substantively but dull. I think he has, actually, improved a great deal as a candidate, but evidently not enough, like Perry.
When candidates drop out this early, I think it is usually because their money has dried up. I have no idea who is funding Kasich, Gilmore et al., but apparently Walker’s donors were not willing to continue. Or maybe there weren’t enough in the first place. In any event, the early demise of Perry and Walker is consistent with the oft-heard complaint that our nominating process is not well suited to selecting the person who would make the best president.