So long, Scott Walker

Jules Witcover wonders what ever made Scott Walker think he had a shot at the presidency in the first place.

Scott Walker, we hardly knew ye. So swiftly and decisively did the brash and overconfident young governor of Wisconsin flame out as a 2016 Republican presidential contender that one has to wonder why he ever thought he had a prayer.

From the outset, Mr. Walker wore his survival of a recall election in the Badger State as some badge of honor, earned in trashing his state's public employee unions. In the process, he may have endeared himself with his party's most ultraconservative elements, but he showed a general contempt toward the other candidates. He offered little of the compassion for the working stiff that cool heads have warned the party it must welcome into the fold.

The conspicuously insular Midwesterner mistakenly figured that by planting his flag early, often and everywhere in neighboring Iowa, he would steal the party's first delegate-selecting caucuses and sprint from there to the GOP nomination.

Instead, the wind that calls itself Donald Trump blew Mr. Walker away before he knew what hit him. Putting all his eggs in one basket made the governor a particular target when he proved to be an ineffective and uncertain trumpet with a tin ear to boot, unable in the end to get out of his own way.

Even on some key issues of concern to the right wing to which he so single-mindedly pandered, he seemed shallow and ill-informed, and at times he contradicted himself as he stumbled to strike a winning chord.

He waffled on the question of making an exception on abortion in the case of saving the life of the mother and also on the conservative litmus test of "amnesty" for immigrants illegally in this country, until he came off as a confused windmill.

By seizing the identity of early frontrunner with his all-in focus on winning the Iowa caucuses, he built an image he was unable to live up to, especially when he was spotlighted next to Mr. Trump in the first two nationally televised debates.

In the first, he joined the me-too chorus of agreeing with Mr. Trump on tough immigration reform. Then, near the end of the second debate, he tried to get a piece of him. Joining the pile-on noting Mr. Trump's lack of foreign-policy experience, Mr. Walker cutely commented, "We don't need an apprentice in the White House; we have one right now." Of course, by any fair appraisal, Mr. Walker himself would be an apprentice on those same grounds.

Early on, Mr. Walker became so taken with his front-runner status in Iowa that at one point he peddled the idea that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another Republican presidential aspirant, might be a suitable running mate. As a Hispanic, Mr. Rubio obviously appealed to Mr. Walker. Mr. Rubio brushed him off by saying a Walker-Rubio ticket might be OK but only "in alphabetical order."

Now Mr. Walker has benched himself with the ludicrous suggestion that other candidates to do the same, presumably with the dubiously altruistic motive of cutting Mr. Trump down to size in a smaller field. Then, presumably, Mr. Trump's current piece of the pie would be insufficient to deliver the presidential nomination to him.

To the very end, Mr. Walker dissembled about the real reason for bowing out -- his dismal performance as a national candidate. He demonstrated an inadequate grasp of the facts and issues in the campaign and of where he stood on them, to convince voters he was presidential material.

Scott Walker in the first GOP debate piously conceded he was "an imperfect man" who was simply following God's will, and would do what He called on him to do. Now he says: "I believe I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field so that a positive conservative message can ride to the top of the field."

Is Mr. Walker now suggesting the Almighty has told him He wants Donald Trump out of the race? Perhaps on the grounds of impersonating the deity?

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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