Washington – Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has concluded he no longer has a path to the Republican presidential nomination and plans to drop out of the 2016 campaign, according to three Republicans familiar with his decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mr. Walker called a news conference in Madison at 6 p.m. Eastern time.
“The short answer is money,” said a supporter of Mr. Walker’s who was briefed on the decision. “He’s made a decision not to limp into Iowa.”
The supporter said Mr. Walker’s fund-raising had dried up after his decline in the polls and that campaign officials did not feel they could risk going into debt with the race so uncertain. The governor, who was scheduled to be in New York and Washington this week, partly to raise money, had built up an expansive staff, bringing on aides and consultants detailed to everything from Christian conservative outreach to Super Tuesday states. But his fund-raising did not keep pace with the money needed to sustain such an infrastructure.
Mr. Walker’s intended withdrawal is a humiliating climb down for a Republican governor once seen as all but politically invincible. He started the year at the top of the polls but has seen his position gradually deteriorate, amid the rise of Donald J. Trump’s populist campaign and repeated missteps by Mr. Walker himself.
In the most recent CNN survey, Mr. Walker drew support nationally from less than one-half of one percent of Republican primary voters. He faced growing pressure to shake up his campaign staff, a step he was loath to take, according to Republicans briefed on his deliberations.
In recent weeks the Walker campaign has seen its fund-raising in a downward spiral, with the candidate undertaking a heavy travel schedule of political events but spending far less time raising money. Two top Walker donors said on Monday that potential backers who had been leaning toward Mr. Walker had started expressing strong misgivings about the direction of his campaign after his middling performance in the last Republican debate. The two donors were helping organize a fund-raiser for Mr. Walker this Thursday in New York City at the apartment of Todd Ricketts, a national finance co-chair of the Walker campaign, but were struggling to lock in people to attend.
“Donors have totally dried up for Walker, and getting people to come on Thursday was unbelievably hard,” said one of the donors. “Everyone I know was just totally stunned by how difficult the fund-raising became, but the candidate and the campaign just couldn’t inspire confidence.”
Mr. Walker burst into attention in late January with a fiery speech in Iowa, where he upstaged other 2016 Republican hopefuls before a conservative crowd, speaking of how he had withstood angry protesters and threats as Wisconsin’s governor.
Courting Republican primary voters who are more conservative than the Wisconsin electorate, Mr. Walker moved to the right, taking hawkish positions on immigration, signing an anti-union bill in Wisconsin and asking the state Legislature to send him a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.
He continued to lead the Republican pack in Iowa all spring, and roared over the open road on a Harley-Davidson to a seven-candidate political fund-raiser in the state in June.
But Mr. Trump’s surge as a political outsider galvanized grass-roots Republicans who are angry at all conventional politicians, and he drew support more from Mr. Walker than from anyone else.
Mr. Walker’s own shortcomings as a candidate, too, seemed to emerge in the close glare of a national campaign. At the first Republican debate in early August, he appeared lackluster and short of charisma. He staked out and then revised positions on birthright citizenship and on building a barrier on the Canadian border.