Back in the pre–Donald Trump era of American politics, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was briefly the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Polls had him 14 points ahead of his closest rival in the first-caucus state of Iowa, and 10 points ahead in the first-primary state of New Hampshire.
From February through May, he frequently led national polls. As late as August 6, his numbers were strong enough to secure Walker a spot next to Trump in the ranked-order positioning for the first GOP debate.
As this week’s second GOP debate approaches, however, Walker’s poll numbers are so bad that he could soon slip off the main stage.
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll has Walker at just 2 percent nationally—putting him in a tie for ninth place. The latest CBS/YouGov poll has him falling to eighth place in New Hampshire with just 3 percent. And last week’s Quinnipiac poll from Iowa, Walker’s “firewall” state, had him in 10th place with 3 percent.
Even in Wisconsin, Walker is struggling. A Marquette University Law School poll conducted in August still had the governor ahead in the Republican race. But 75 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they were supporting someone else or were undecided.
Things are so bad for Walker that, after he cancelled a number of scheduled appearances following Wednesday night’s debate (including what was supposed to be a major address to California Republicans), there was a flurry of speculation that he would follow the lead of former Texas governor Rick Perry and quit the competition.
That won’t happen.
Walker has been running for president for three years—ever since massive infusions of money from out-of-state billionaires such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson helped him to set off a popular uprising that culminated in an attempt to recall him from office. He sees himself as the truest heir to the legacy of Ronald Reagan, so much so that the governor made a pilgrimage last week to the small Illinois college from which Reagan graduated. And Walker is not about to let go of the fantasy that he can pick up where the former president left off.