The sputtering presidential campaign of Scott Walker, who just weeks ago was hailed as a heavyweight contender for the White House, was plunged deeper into crisis on Sunday as a new national poll placed the Wisconsin governor’s support at less than half a percentage point.
At the end of a week in which a second lacklustre TV debate performance was followed by major fundraisers openly airing their fears to the media, Walker found himself abruptly relegated to the bottom tier of Republican candidates in the CNN survey.
So dramatic has been Walker’s demise that “no one” registered more support than him for 2016 among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in the CNN poll.
“Walker’s collapse is especially stark,” said the network’s report on the survey. “Celebrated by conservatives – in the party’s base and its donor class alike – for his union-busting efforts in Wisconsin , Walker at one point led the field in the key early voting state of Iowa.”
Walker now enjoys just 1.8% of support among Republicans, according to a polling average by RealClearPolitics . A separate NBC survey on Sunday found his support had dropped from 7% to 3% since last month and that only 1% now believed he would ultimately be the Republican nominee.
SE Cupp, a conservative commentator, blamed Walker’s avowed strategy of being “aggressively boring” in the face of glamorous outsiders trading explosive personal attacks.
“He does not exist in this kind of climate,” Cupp told CNN. “He can not break through.”
Blaming “inclement weather”, Walker cancelled an appearance at a Republican conference on Mackinac Island, Michigan, on Saturday. The planned appearance had already been rescheduled after Walker pulled out for a first time last week, in order to campaign in early-voting states.
Walker also cancelled a scheduled appearance over the weekend at the California Republican Party convention.
Amid rumours of disarray within the Walker campaign, Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota-based billionaire and one of the governor’s biggest funders, told the Washington Post : “I think I might help some other candidates too.”
The apparent panic in Walker’s camp prompted a spokesman for one pro-Hillary Clinton campaign group to suggest on Sunday that Walker would be “the next out”, following the departure from the race of former Texas governor Rick Perry.
“He’s effectively done,” said Daniel Wessel of Correct The Record .
Spokespeople for Walker’s campaign did not respond on Sunday to an emailed request for comment about the CNN poll and growing criticism of the governor’s campaign.
His press secretary, Kirsten Kukowski, said defiantly on Twitter : “An America under Scott Walker won’t be intimidated, it won’t back down.”
Walker ranked below 11 other Republican candidates in the CNN poll. Having fallen from 5% to less than 0.5% he sat alongside candidates widely regarded as having little chance of securing the nomination, such as former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, former New York governor George Pataki, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The proportion of Republican and Republican-leaning independent respondents who said they had a favourable opinion of Walker tumbled by seven points to 37%, according to the survey, while 23% said they held an unfavourable view – up eight points from August.
The television host and property tycoon Donald Trump continued to lead the Republican field in the CNN poll but saw a significant drop in support for the first time, from 32% to 24%. Carly Fiorina , the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, overtook the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson for second place, with 15%.
Much speculation has centred on Walker’s staffing. On Thursday his campaign manager, Rick Wiley, felt compelled to dismiss suggestions that he was about to be ousted.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he told the Madison Capital Times . “The vicious rumour cycle has begun. Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”