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Scott Walker Drops Out: No Base + No Differentiation = No Campaign

In rather bizarre remarks in which, without naming him, he implicitly trashed Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination for President. 

The demise of Scott Walker’s campaign came as a surprise to many observers who saw in Walker a potential “compromise” candidate who could unite Tea Partiers (who supported him strongly throughout his three Scott Walkercampaigns for Governor), conservatives and the establishment business community who had also strongly supported him in his campaigns, and in his efforts to rein-in the vampires of Wisconsin’s teachers unions that were sucking the state’s taxpayers dry. 

But unlike Jeb Bush, whose base is the Republican establishment and the inside the Beltway political class, and Ted Cruz, whose base is the conservative movement, or Donald Trump, whose base is his checkbook and his celebrity, which allowed him to seize the support of anti-establishment populists, or even Rand Paul, whose libertarian-leaning base is small, but committed, Scott Walker never really had a base.  

And without a base, while Walker began the campaign at the top of the polls, his failure to apply Viguerie’s Four Horsemen of Marketing quickly became the major limiting factor of his campaign. 

Viguerie’s Four Horsemen of Marketing are:

• Position (privately decide what on your hole in the marketplace) 

• Differentiation (publicly separate yourself from the other candidates) 

• Benefit (how will electing you solve the voters’ important issues) 

• Brand (the combination of the above – what makes you singular or unique) 

While Scott Walker never said publicly, “I’m shooting to be the guy who can unite conservatives, Tea Partiers and the establishment business community,” it’s pretty clear that was the position he chose as his hole in the market. 

And although he had some good conservative advisors, such as our friends Michael Grebe, Craig Shirley and Diana Banister, the day-to-day management of his campaign was in the hands of establishment Republican consultants, who were steeped in the inside the Beltway Republican strategy of running a content-free campaign. 

These consultants, such as campaign manager Rick Wiley and Super PAC senior adviser Brad Dayspring, had no clue how to appeal to conservatives and consequently Walker found himself unprepared to go on a multicandidate stage and make a compelling case for his candidacy. 

But behind the scenes Walker did look good to many potential backers in the establishment Republican business community, who had already poured millions into his three successful campaigns for Governor.  

However, many, if not most of those potential backers were already invested in the Jeb Bush campaign by the time Walker announced, so what was the benefit of investing in Scott Walker? A pretty strong case for the benefits of backing Scott Walker would have to be made to pry establishment support away from Jeb Bush, and Walker never really made it. 

As the son of a small town minister Scott Walker also had the right instincts and right record on many elements of the social conservative agenda, such as the right to life. But Walker never projected the fire of Ted Cruz when speaking about the social conservative agenda, nor did he have a long history in the pro-life movement, as Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee do. 

And let’s face it – with the exception of former New York Governor George Pataki – every Republican candidate this cycle can claim to be prolife. 

So unlike 1980, when George H.W. Bush and John Anderson campaigned on their support for the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, support for the right to life is not an issue through which the candidates can be differentiated. 

Walker looked good to many Tea Partiers, too, but if you are a limited government constitutional conservative what was the benefit of backing Walker? You already had a proven candidate in Ted Cruz. 

And if you were a populist, well Donald Trump quickly sucked up all the media coverage on the populist issues – to say nothing of the grassroots support of those with populist inclinations. 

Without a base, when one applied Viguerie’s Four Horsemen of Marketing to Scott Walker’s presidential bid it was clear that – despite his early favorable poll numbers – Walker had a steep hill to climb. 

So, what does Walker’s departure from the campaign trail mean for the other candidates? 

Do Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee and John Kasich, to say nothing of Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and the rest of the second tier have unique holes in the marketplace, and sufficient differentiation and benefits to succeed where Rick Perry and Scott Walker have failed? 

When you start applying Viguerie’s Four Horsemen of Marketing to the other campaigns it quickly becomes apparent that some of them are up against the same problem Walker had. 

While Mike Huckabee is still in the race his support has not grown significantly. Despite his well-received performances at the two debates Huckabee remains, as one CHQ commenter put it, they guy you would like to be the youth pastor of your church, not the President of the United States. 

And that is not surprising. 

After losing his 2008 presidential bid Huckabee did not spend his time building his base – as Ronald Reagan did after losing the 1976 Republican nomination to President Ford. Neither did Rick Santorum after his 2012 loss to Mitt Romney and that is why Huckabee and Santorum haven’t been able to grow beyond their narrow group of initial supporters this time around. 

With the support of a few well-heeled donors Huckabee may stay in the race a while longer, but the benefit of backing either Santorum or Huckabee over conservative Ted Cruz, or Dr. Ben Carson, is a hard sell – and getting harder – because neither of them have sufficiently differentiated themselves, let alone established a compelling benefit to voting for them over one of the other conservatives. 

And the establishment candidates are also in difficulty. 

Jeb Bush has the Republican establishment as his base – and while Marco Rubio may be ahead in some polls after a strong performance in the CNN debate – Rubio’s poll numbers always seem to subside outside the warm glow of the establishment media spotlights. 

If you’re an establishment Republican – a supporter of amnesty and the rest of the Chamber of Commerce agenda – why back Rubio or Kasich when you’ve got the original in Jeb Bush, and political associations with the Bush family that go back as many as three generations? 

On the other hand, Jeb Bush’s weak performance on the campaign trail differentiates him – but not in a good way – and keeps the other establishment candidates, like Rubio and Kasich alive. 

Among the anti-establishment candidates the news is different.  

After starting with poll numbers in the single digits, outsiders Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson look like they are claiming their holes in the marketplace, differentiating themselves and beginning to communicate their positive benefits as candidates. 

The early demise of the Rick Perry and Scott Walker candidacies demonstrates that a record of success as a Governor and being right on the issues isn’t enough – to win you’ve got to have the Four Horsemen working for you, not against you.  

As the clock ticks toward the first primaries and the money drains away, the Four Horsemen are working against a number of the other Republican candidates who haven’t identified their hole in the marketplace, differentiated themselves from the competition and communicated a clear positive benefit to voting for them.

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Scot Walker dropout

My take is that Scott's fate was sealed the day that he came out in support of the TPP. As I recall, Scott was undecided about his position on the TPP until a day or so after he had met with Rep Paul Ryan. It seemed clear that that meeting and the closely following result indicated significant influence by Ryan on Scott's decision-making.

Walker goes

Walker was not very impressive, but had the air of someone who really thought he was. Adios Scott.