And another one bites the dust. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race Monday in hasty fashion amid reports of drying donor funds and shaky performances on the campaign trail and national stage, leaving 15 Republican candidates left in the running for the party's nomination. The big question now is who Walker will support for the White House (and essentially commit his now leaderless voter base) because the endorsement could dramatically boost one candidate's visibility out of the middling pack.
During his primary concession speech, Walker said he believed his decision would initiate a shift in his party's race, which has arguably been hijacked by outsiders. He also gave a dig of stunning subtweet levels, calling upon other candidates to follow suit so Republicans can band together behind a "positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner."
Today, I believe that I am being 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. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately. I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner.
That front-runner is none other than Donald Trump, whose entry into the Republican field marked the end of Walker's early shine. Walker was once the party's celebrated poster boy after surviving a recall election in Wisconsin in 2012 — the first American governor to boast that feat — and there were murmurs of a promising 2016 presidential run. With those conservative hopes now dashed, candidates are already angling to grab his crucial votes.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is poised to be a Walker 2.0 as both presented themselves as conservative alternatives to the more "moderate" establishment man Jeb Bush. According to The Washington Post, Cruz's campaign announced activists who previously backed Walker in Iowa, Georgia, and Nevada were joining the "Cruz-sade." On the campaign trail, Walker and Cruz shared a cordial relationship, with the now fallen Republican having once said, "Even though I don't know Sen. Cruz as well as I know some of the governors, I've grown to know him and like him and admire him quite a bit out on the campaign trail."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is also a likely option for Walker and his supporters to back. Walker's New Hampshire co-chair Cliff Hurst has already thrown his weight behind Rubio, according to Vox and WMUR-TV, and chances are more will head the junior Florida senator's way. Before his untimely demise, Walker repeatedly teased the possibility of naming Rubio his Veep should he win the party's nomination. The boast was once viewed as a veiled insult, but now a Rubio-Walker ticket (in that order) could be an interesting pairing. With both painted as young conservative faces pandering to different voter blocs, the combo could represent a formidable force that's attractive enough to woo eyes away from Trump.
While it'll probably be some time before Walker finishes licking his wounds and is ready to publicly endorse a candidate, the shattered pieces that were once his promising campaign are already starting to find new homes. His conservative supporters are likely to hedge their bets on the younger class of the Republican elect than on political outsiders like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. And one thing's for sure: Trump ain't getting any of it.