Subscribe for 33¢ / day
WALKER

Gov. Scott Walker announces he is suspending his presidential campaign at The Edgewater Hotel in Madison on Monday, September 21, 2015.

MICHELLE STOCKER

Just like that, it's over for Gov. Scott Walker. For now, anyway.

The Wisconsin governor announced his withdrawal from the presidential race on Monday at Madison's Edgewater Hotel, citing a need to shift the Republican debate to a more positive tone,.

"While I was sitting in church yesterday, the pastor's words reminded me that the Bible is full of stories about people who were called to be leaders in unusual ways," Walker told reporters. "Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With that in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately."

Walker encouraged other Republican candidates to follow his lead, in an effort to create a more focused field of "candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current frontrunner."

Walker's announcement came one day after the release of a CNN poll showing less than 0.5 percent of support among national voters. That earned Walker an asterisk rather than a number after his name.

That showing was "pretty devastating," said Charles Franklin, who runs the Marquette University Law School poll. Franklin noted that the asterisk wasn't the result of outliers, but the culmination of a two- to three-month downward trend.

Walker's official candidacy lasted exactly 10 weeks, although his July 13 announcement came after months of speculation that he would run.

One Iowa Republican assessed the end of Walker's campaign as "Tim Pawlenty 2.0."

"Pawlenty was the victim of a crazed woman with scary eyes. Walker is the victim of a crazed billionaire with scary hair," the GOP operative said.

Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, dropped out of the 2012 race after a disappointing showing in the Iowa Straw Poll, which then-Rep. Michele Bachmann won.

Walker's campaign has faltered since real estate mogul Donald Trump entered the race in June, and he alluded to Trump's effect on the Republican race in his speech.

"President (Ronald) Reagan was good for America because he was an optimist. Sadly, the debate taking place in the Republican party today is not focused on that optimistic view of America. Instead, it has drifted into personal attacks," Walker said. "In the end, I believe that voters want to be for something and not against someone. Instead of talking about how bad things are, we want to hear about how we can make them better for everyone."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose name Walker dropped as his potential vice president earlier this summer, said Walker "remains one of the best governors in the country."

Rubio said he knows many people are disappointed with Walker's announcement, and respects how difficult it was to make.

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

Liz Mair, a GOP strategist who worked for Walker on gubernatorial races and, briefly, his presidential race, said Walker became "so invested in winning, no matter what it took, that he lost sight of his real identity as a political leader."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Wisconsin is "fortunate" to keep Walker for the full four years of his second term.

"Gov. Walker has an amazing story to tell about turning Wisconsin around. It is unfortunate that the bluster of candidates overshadowed his substance," Vos said. "I look forward to working with Gov. Walker on additional reform measures throughout his second term in office. The nation’s loss is truly Wisconsin’s gain."

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, countered that by saying "the lack of support for Gov. Walker’s presidential campaign is a clear rejection of ‘divide and conquer’ politics."

Walker's announcement prompted jubilant celebrations from those on the left, including AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka who tweeted that Walker is "still a disgrace, just no longer national."

"Hey Scott Walker, as one of the most anti-choice politicians in the race — not to mention a hypocrite — don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Also, we’re curious, do the Koch Brothers get a refund?" quipped NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue.

But Joe Zepecki, who served as the spokesman for Walker's most recent Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, cautioned liberals against premature end-zone dancing.

"Past is prologue when it comes to Mr. Walker," Zepecki said, referencing Walker's aborted gubernatorial bid against Mark Green. "He executed this play in 2006 and was elected governor of Wisconsin four years later. The national stage has not seen the last of this guy."

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.