Scott Walker is dropping out of the Republican presidential race, multiple sources confirm to CNN.
The governor of Wisconsin entered the primary in July as a front-runner — a darling of both the conservative base and powerful donors after winning his battles against public unions in his left-leaning home state. But that promising start was quickly dashed after poor debate performances dried up support from donors.
“I am stunned,” said one Walker donor.
Walker has called a 6 p.m. ET news conference in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is expected to announce his decision to withdraw from the race.
The New York Times first reported Walker’s plans to drop out. Those intentions were confirmed to CNN by a senior campaign official, a GOP strategist close to the campaign, and a senior GOP adviser with knowledge of his plans.
The governor called some of his top supporters earlier Monday afternoon informing them of his decision, according to one Walker insider. This person said Walker’s recent plummet in the polls was a big factor in his decision-making.
He sounded “upbeat,” they said, and his message to supporters was, “I did the best I could.”
Moving forward, Walker said the best use of his time and the party’s time would be to dedicate all resources to whoever the eventual nominee will be.
Walker rocketed to the front of the GOP pack in Iowa after a rousing speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January — and subsequently, his campaign pinned its hopes on the first state to vote in the presidential nominating process.
But Walker was hurt by lackluster performances in the first two Republican debates. And his poll numbers suffered: In a CNN/ORC poll released Sunday, Walker failed to garner even one-half of 1% nationally among likely GOP primary voters.
A GOP strategist close to the campaign told CNN that Walker “is a pragmatist above all else and just didn’t see the path to a comeback.”
The strategist also said that the Walker campaign left last week’s CNN debate feeling alright, but quickly realized the outside reaction was flat at best. This source added that the national polling drop was troubling but it was the Iowa polling that hit hardest, as that state was to serve as “our launchpad.”
“Hard to see a path for us without Iowa,” one source said.
There had always been hope in the Walker campaign that Trump supporters were not active caucus-goers, the source said, but it was hard to fight the popularity of both front-runner Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
Walker was also hurt by reversals on a host of controversial issues — including birthright citizenship, on which he gave three different answers in the span of seven days. Those reversals were particularly damaging to his outsider image as non-politicians like Trump, Carson and Carly Fiorina climbed the polls.
Walker delayed entering the campaign in part to raise money for his super PAC, which posted a $20 million haul in the first half of 2015.
But once it launched, the campaign appeared to be bedeviled by a lack of hard dollars that it needed to pay staff, travel the country and pay filing fees to state parties. It will not be known how much money the Walker campaign raised — or how quickly it burned through it — until October 15, when the federal campaign finance reports are made public.
“The money dried up — and it dried up right after the Cleveland debate, and we never could get it back,” a source close to Walker said of the August 6 debate.
Walker’s exit is now almost certain to set off a fierce scramble for his big-money backers, led by the Ricketts family that has emerged as one of the GOP’s most powerful financial contributors. Todd Ricketts, the campaign’s finance chair, was scheduled to host a fundraiser for Walker in New York on Thursday.