Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker abruptly pulled out of the US Republican presidential race on Monday, doomed by a lightning-quick collapse from serious contender to also-ran candidate struggling to raise money.
Walker’s departure left his rivals seeking the Republican nomination for next year’s November presidential election scrambling to appeal to his supporters in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as elsewhere.
Experts saw potential gain for conservative candidates like US Senator Ted Cruz and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, as well as center-right contenders such as US Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
For Walker, a shaky performance on the campaign trail plus two lackluster performances at Republican debates spooked financial donors. His staff disagreed about how the 47-year-old Walker could regain the star status he held after electrifying conservatives in Iowa in January.
“He started with great expectations and he didn’t meet ‘em,” Iowa Republican strategist Doug Gross said. “You go down pretty fast when that happens.”
Walker’s departure reflected the difficulty faced by the 15-candidate field in attracting enough financial support from a limited pool of donors.
Other low-polling Republicans might well pull out in the weeks ahead.
Walker’s campaign has been in trouble for weeks, but his departure was still a surprise, although there had been talk of a shake-up of his team.
The campaign sought to renew its focus on Iowa given its proximity to Wisconsin, but a CNN/ORC poll on Sunday showed the magnitude of his problems. Walker had less than 1 percent support, a dramatic slide from one of the front-runners when he announced his campaign in early July.
Some Republicans said that by exiting quickly, four months before Iowa holds the first nominating contest of next year’s election season, Walker showed a maturity that might help him salvage his reputation should he decide to run again in the future.
“Today, I believe 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,” Walker said.
Walker appeared to direct scorn at tough-talking New York billionaire Donald Trump, the party’s front-runner who now leads in Iowa, where Walker had staked a claim.
He said the party’s debate has “drifted into personal attacks.”
“In the end, I believe that the voters want to be for something and not against someone. Instead of talking about how bad things are, we want to hear how they can make them better for everyone. We need to get back to the basics of our party,” he said.
He called on some of his rivals for the Republican nomination to join him in exiting the race to give voters a chance to rally around a front-runner that can win the election.
Walker was the second Republican to drop out of the race.
He follows former Texas governor Rick Perry, who dropped out on Sept. 11.
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