Walker was in asterisk territory in one recent poll. REUTERS/Chris Keane
By Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Dan Balz September 21 at 4:23 PM
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is suspending his presidential campaign today, effectively ending a once-promising GOP presidential bid that collapsed over the summer, according to several Republicans briefed on his plans. He planned to deliver the news at a 5 p.m. CT press conference in Madison, Wis.
Walker, who tumbled from top-tier status amid tepid debate performances and other missteps, had pulled back from other early-voting states in favor of a heavy focus on Iowa, where he once led the field and has strong roots as a Midwesterner.
Many backers had directed their ire at campaign manager Rick Wiley, who some Walker supporters believe expanded the staff too quickly and failed to calibrate spending during the summer fundraising season. A recent count put the number of full-time Walker campaign staff at around 90.
Earlier this month, campaigning in New Hampshire, he was hammered with questions about how his campaign would handle falling poll numbers, and the rise of Donald Trump. “We just have to stay constant, stay who you are,” he told one supporter in Rochester.
Staying constant, however, was one of his biggest challenges. On key issues of the day — from calls to end birthright citizenship to the jailing of a Kentucky county official who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses — Walker struggled more than other candidates to clearly explain where he stands.
His performance contributed to mounting questions about the trajectory of his campaign. His verbal missteps — often the result of answering questions on the campaign trail with responses that he was forced to amend and later clarify — had been a topic of concern among his own loyalists. Last month, he twice found himself forced to clarify something he had said, first on whether he supported an end to birthright citizenship and again after an offhand answer suggesting he favored building a wall on the U.S.-Canadian border.
Walker had been urged repeatedly to be far more careful in answering unexpected questions, which have overshadowed positive reviews he’s gotten from conservative media and commentators about some of his policy proposals.