Just a little more than two months after officially launching his bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Governor Scott Walker on Monday suspended his campaign.
Speaking at a downtown Madison hotel, the Wisconsin governor opened by talking about the influence of former President Ronald Reagan on his political career…a theme that’s been common for him on the campaign trail. “President Reagan was good for America because he was an optimist,” Walker said, adding that “sadly, the debate taking place in the Republican party today is not focused on that optimistic view of America. Instead, it has drifted into personal attacks.”
Walker said the party needs to refocus on the basics, and he believes leadership is needed to make that happen. “I believe that 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,” he said.
While he did not mention GOP frontrunner Donald Trump by name, Walker did make it clear that he hopes his move will encourage others to bow out and allow a more conservative voice to challenge the real estate developer. He said that it is “fundamentally important” that voters have a “positive conservative alternative to the current frontrunner.”
AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker announces he’s suspending his campaign (3:24)
The governor’s announcement brought a wide range of responses.
Outside the hotel where he delivered his brief remarks, protesters who have demonstrated against Walker almost daily in the Capitol rotunda since the spring of 2011 stood outside singing songs. Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) called Walker’s lack of support a “clear rejection of ‘divide and conquer’ politics and a sign that “hardworking families want leaders who are willing to work together toward a brighter future.”
State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt said in a statement that “the American people have unmistakably rejected Scott Walker’s anti-union brand,” adding that “America has said ‘no thank you’ ‘good-bye’ and ‘good riddance’ to Scott Walker and his union-busting campaign.”
Walker just last week indicated he wanted to push for federal legislation similar to his signature changes to collective bargaining in Wisconsin.
Republican leaders were quick to offer praise for the effort Walker made on the campaign trail. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Walker “has an amazing story to tell about turning Wisconsin around. It is unfortunate that the bluster of candidates overshadowed his substance.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Walker is “a man of true integrity and courage. He has worked hard for Wisconsin and made a valiant attempt to offer his leadership to America.”
Walker’s decision to exit the race comes as he has faced increasingly bad news in the polls, compounded by two debate performances where many observers have said he failed to deliver a strong performance. There have also been reports of possible financial troubles due to unpaid bills.
The governor left his press conference without taking any questions.