The hard lesson for Walker is that campaigns expose a candidate's weaknesses and gaps in knowledge. While it is possible for candidates to improve as performers -- they do it all the time -- it is really hard for them to learn much new during the campaign. The action is simply too frantic, too non-stop for a candidate to really delve into anything.
What that means is a good candidate had better bring a pretty strong store of knowledge to a campaign. Walker brought a lot of knowledge about Wisconsin, but not a lot about presidential-level issues.
His deficiencies were brutally exposed once the GOP debates began. At the Fox News debate in August, Walker went in too cautiously -- the idea was to hit a single, avoid any big mistakes, and move on -- and underperformed even those expectations.
Going into the CNN Reagan Library debate last Wednesday, Walker's team had done a lot of coaching, but mostly, it seemed, on style. He talked too fast in the first debate, so they wanted him to write two words on a pad of paper when he arrived at his podium at the Reagan Library: "Slow Down."
It didn't matter. The moderators virtually ignored Walker, and he failed to effectively jump into the stream of debate on his own. Then, after the debate, came a shocking poll, from CNN, that showed Walker's support, already weakening, had cratered.Four years ago, York made the same point about Rick Perry.
Nicholas Confessore writes at The New York Times:
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin was among the most successful fund-raisers in his party, with a clutch of billionaires in his corner and tens of millions of dollars behind his presidential ambitions. But his swift decline and exit from the presidential race on Monday was a stark reminder that even unlimited money has its limits.
While a super PAC supporting him, Unintimidated, was relatively flush with cash — on track to raise as much as $40 million through the end of the year, according to people involved with the group — Mr. Walker’s campaign committee was running dry, contemplating layoffs and unable to find enough money to mount a last stand in Iowa, a state that once favored him.
Super PACs, Mr. Walker learned, cannot pay rent, phone bills, salaries, airfares or ballot access fees. They are not entitled to the preferential rates on advertising that federal law grants candidates, forcing them to pay far more money than candidates must for the same television and radio time.
Now, in a campaign that has already upended assumptions about the power of dynasties and the limits of celebrity candidates, Mr. Walker’s decline and fall hint at the systemic dangers of the super PAC-driven financial model on which virtually the entire Republican field has staked its chances.And in the category of "if only they'd listened to me," Eric Bradner reports at CNN:
A former Scott Walker aide offered her take on what went wrong with his campaign, minutes after it was reported that he was dropping out of the 2016 Republican race.
Liz Mair is a digital media strategist who was forced out of Walker's campaign the day after it announced her hiring because of her tweets blasting Iowa's role in the nominating process. On Monday, she offered a long list of Walker's mistakes via Twitter.
Among those listed in her series of tweets: "Misunderstanding the GOP base, its priorities and stances. Pandering. Flip-flopping. Hiring staff who did not know him well and did not understand his record or his reputation across all segments in Wisconsin. Allowing certain staff (ahem) to marginalize and cut off people in Walker's orbit who had got him to the governorship and kept him there."