Scott Walker's long, slow slide

The Wisconsin governor assumed that the strength of his record would help him endure in the 2016 race. It didn't.

Scott Walkers announcement
(Image credit: AP Photo/Morry Gash)

I was never high on Scott Walker's presidential chances.

The Wisconsin governor gave good speeches and his record as a union-busting truth-to-power speaker in his home state was certainly attractive enough to cross the plausibility threshold. But he seemed to be unusually bad at politicking. He accepted the wrong advice from the wrong people, was capable of contradicting himself several times a day, flirted with dangerous topics like President Obama's religion without finesse, and just generally didn't seem up to the job.

He jumped to a lead in Iowa early on the strength of his record in Wisconsin. This was his high watermark.

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He had no second act. In the theater of politics, there are distinct stages. Unless you're a prohibitive frontrunner — heck, even if you are — you need to learn how to pick spots, make moments, and introduce new reasons for voters to like you. Walker was never prohibitive. He lacked energy and flare. He was a one-hit wonder, assuming that the strength of his record and his stolid, workmanlike style would help him endure.

I don't know whether Donald Trump's rise abetted Walker's downfall. Chris Cillizza says it did because Trump is proving the old adage that high-wattage personality matters. Walker is about as exciting as a day-old salami sandwich.

But if taking attention away from Walker is the issue here, several candidates with whom he shares a base have seen their support grow since Trump got in. And Walker had to know that money would not follow him into a hole. Money chases success. Rick Perry's flameout should have been a warning sign.

Walker leaves behind a lot of talent and a number of fundraisers, as The Washington Post's David Drucker noted on Twitter. Some will decamp to a hungry Trump organization, but I think a number will wait to see who emerges as a credible rival to Trump in Iowa. Carly Fiorina has to demonstrate staying power before she becomes a staff magnet.

There are now 15 candidates in the race, if you include Jim Gilmore. Walker polled at about one half of 1 percent.

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Marc Ambinder

Marc Ambinder is's editor-at-large. He is the author, with D.B. Grady, of The Command and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Marc is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and GQ. Formerly, he served as White House correspondent for National Journal, chief political consultant for CBS News, and politics editor at The Atlantic. Marc is a 2001 graduate of Harvard. He is married to Michael Park, a corporate strategy consultant, and lives in Los Angeles.