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GOP Primary: Better To Be Tardy to the (Republican) Party?

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With more than a dozen candidates pursuing the Republican presidential nomination, some will inevitably quit and cut their losses before getting to Iowa. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ended his bid this week. He was originally considered a favorite due to his record in the statehouse, but his campaign was a big disappointment.

scott-walker-wisconsinWalker told supporters he had made the decision to “clear the field” and make it easier for voters to assess Republican candidates. “I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner. This is fundamentally important to the future of the party and — ultimately — to the future of our country.”

Based on national poll results, it became apparent that Walker’s debate performances hadn’t helped him and support for his candidacy had dried up. In the latest CNN/ORC poll, he drew less than one-half of one percent of GOP primary voters’ support. Walker was also running out of campaign money.

During this early time period in the election process — and yes, it’s still very early — Republican primary voters have been more attracted to personality rather than issues. It’s the “flavor-of-the-month” pre-primary slog where bombast counts for a lot. Donald Trump — the current leader Walker referred to in his withdrawal statement — is made of bombast. Candidates like Scott Walker who are long on substance and accomplishments but short on pizzazz could have done better by waiting to get into the race until after the pugilists had punched themselves out.

Candidates have to gamble a little with their macro strategy play. The candidate’s campaign advisors need to take a sober look at the field in the spring and realize when the field is so crowded as it is now that they might get lost in the mix. Why get into the scrum? Why not wait and ride to the rescue in the late-summer? Texas Governor Rick Perry tried this approach in 2012. He could have pulled it off, but he fell apart on the debate stage and could not recover. If you’re going to take the late-to-the-party approach, you better have the message and the performance to make a notable entrance and a quick sprint to the finish.

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