Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s White House aspirations ended Monday, as the struggling candidate announced plans to leave the race for GOP nominee at Madison’s Edgewater Hotel.
“I believe it’s time for me to lead by helping to clear the GOP field,” Walker said, citing his faith and Biblical examples of leadership.
In the brief public statement, he also returned to another campaign tenet: his admiration for Ronald Reagan, and the former president’s optimism and faith in the American people.
“Sadly, the debate taking place in the Republican Party today is not focused on that optimistic view of America,” Walker said. “Instead, it has drifted into personal attacks. In the end, I believe the American people want to be for something, and not against someone.”
The reference was clearly aimed at frontrunner Donald Trump, whose bombastic style has been blamed in part for Walker’s rapid descent in the polls.
Walker offered a similar call to end divisiveness between fellow Republicans during the GOP debates. Nonetheless, he earned nearly no traction in the polls on that national stage at the same time Trump saw a meteoric rise.
His fall is all the more stunning given Walker’s early lead. The governor captured attention and wide praise from Iowa’s Republican base when he debuted there this spring. Reports suggest Walker pulled out in the face of campaign funding concerns, following an unsuccessful attempt to buoy his foundering campaign.
The immediate reaction from supporters Monday was surprise — not so much at the announcement as its suddenness.
“It is shocking that it happened this rapidly,” said Jim Barry III, a Milwaukee commercial real estate brokerage owner and Walker supporter.
Barry is among a cadré of Wisconsin business executives who’ve supported Walker from this gubernatorial run on through his bid for the presidential nomination. Locals with direct ties include campaign chairman Michael Grebe, president and CEO of the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, and Jon Hammes, of Brookfield’s Hammes Co., who served as finance co-chair for the campaign.