Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has lately polled consistently in the low single digits, has suspended his Presidential campaign -- and in dropping out said he's "called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field," and urged other Republican candidates to drop out as well, so that the party could coalesce behind a nominee who is not a certain very loud billionaire who embarrasses them by saying the things out loud that they only say at country clubs. This is, of course, par for the course for a political animal who combines the inarticulate cunning of George W. Bush with the messaging skills of Karl Rove -- if he can call corporate welfare "job creation" and getting goodies for his cronies "winning for the people," why not call quitting "leadership"?
But in a world where repeatedly spewing forth racist and sexist garbage is apparently no longer a serious impediment to political success, it can be hard to see exactly what Scott Walker did (or failed to do) to lose the nomination. Of course he's not as scintillating as Mr. Trump, but neither are the other 154 remaining candidates, and Mr. Walker didn't win three statewide elections in four years because he's scintillating -- rather, he cuts the figure of a man who knows his stuff and doesn't get rattled when he's challenged, and voters respond to that as surely as they respond to a billionaire with a bad attitude. As far as I can tell, Mr. Walker only made two mistakes that Democrats would have mentioned in campaign ads: he out-Romneyed Mitt Romney by taking three-count-'em-three positions on birthright citizenship within a week, and he suggested that the British government didn't like President Obama's "leading from behind" in foreign policy, which earned that famously terse retort from the Cameron camp: "(t)he Prime Minster did not say that and does not think that."
You might find that assessment a surprise, if you've attended the steady drumbeat of stories about Walker missteps (like the Philly cheesesteak "gaffe," ugh) and sound bites from other Republicans (who knew Tom Coburn attended the party's pulse so well?) describing Mr. Walker as "not ready for prime time." You may be tempted to respond that folks who think Mr. Walker wasn't "ready for prime time" haven't watched Marco Rubio try to explain anything, but you'd be better off attributing Mr. Walker's demise not just to Mr. Trump, who sucks the oxygen from any room he's in, but also to that infamous right-wing chimera, the "liberal" media. Not that the "liberal" media had very much to say about Mr. Walker's destruction of public unions or his embrace of "right-to-work" laws, or his patent refusal to do either of these things while he was campaigning. But Mr. Walker too often showed contempt for reporters, especially when they asked tough questions. Aside from one frank assessment of a New York Times reporter on a mic he didn't know was hot, how much contempt for the "liberal" media did George W. Bush show in 2000? And who was the "liberal" media's favorite in 2008? The "liberal" media may not remember much, but they remember when they've been disrespected.
So now what? Mr. Walker, in "suspending" his campaign, could always come back, I suppose, but I doubt he will, since we don't live in that universe where Gary Hart won two terms as President. My heart swells at the prospect that Mr. Walker will have to go back to Wisconsin and face the mess he's made, and ultimately leave office in 2018 as disgraced as Mr. Bush did a decade earlier, but there is another, horrifying prospect: Mr. Walker could wind up as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, not on a ticket with Mr. Trump, of course, but maybe with John Kasich or Chris Christie. Having Mr. Walker as your running mate would be like getting a good campaign manager for free, and once he's largely relieved of the responsibility to talk about himself or his own record, his considerable political skills could help propel the Republican nominee to victory.
I'm not going to lie to you, though. Scott Walker dropping out of this race is Christmas in September. He'd have been that horrible a President. And now we're very likely spared that catastrophe for at least eight more years.