Gov. Scott Walker, responding to questions about his future in Wisconsin after the sudden collapse of his presidential campaign, confirmed Wednesday that he will serve out the remaining three-plus years of his term.
And he rejected the idea of taking a Cabinet position should a Republican be elected president in 2016, according to a fundraiser who was on a conference call with Walker on Wednesday.
“He wants to be governor,” fundraiser Eric Anton said in an interview with the State Journal.
Anton said Walker also told donors he’s considering whether to seek a third term as governor but hasn’t decided if he’ll do so.
The revelations followed calls from leading Wisconsin Republicans for Walker to make clear his plans after abruptly ending his 2016 presidential bid Monday.
Walker will attend an anniversary celebration for a Beaver Dam business on Friday, his first public appearance since Monday.
Walker brought clarity to his plans Wednesday as postmortems poured in for his presidential campaign, two days after he dropped out. The reports depicted a campaign that spent lavishly when Walker was among the Republican presidential front-runners — then was caught off-guard by a dramatic collapse in fundraising in August and September that followed Walker’s poor debate showings and public gaffes.
Reports that Walker’s campaign racked up as much as $800,000 in debt led Democratic state lawmakers on Wednesday to call on the campaign to prioritize repaying the state for Walker’s presidential campaign travel costs.
Top legislative Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Joint Finance Committee co-chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said Tuesday that lawmakers were wondering if Walker will keep serving as Wisconsin’s chief executive until his term expires after the 2018 election.
On Wednesday, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick, said “yes” in response to an email inquiry from the State Journal, asking if the governor will serve out his term.
Meanwhile, Walker’s backers are sifting through the ashes of his short-lived presidential campaign. At just 70 days, it was the third-shortest presidential campaign since the Nixon administration, the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog reported.
Blame falls on campaign manager
Many Walker supporters are criticizing campaign manager Rick Wiley for profligate spending, The Washington Post and other outlets reported.
Wiley has defended his rapid build-out of campaign staff as necessary to position Walker on the national stage, while pointing to Walker’s misstatements for fatally wounding the campaign’s fundraising efforts.
In an interview with WisPolitics.com, Wiley singled out Walker’s struggles to explain his position on birthright citizenship, the constitutional right to citizenship for all people born in the U.S., which businessman Donald Trump and some other GOP candidates have called to abolish.
“The birthright citizenship was the beginning of the end,” Wiley told WisPolitics.com. “That was the week we really saw fundraising numbers start to plummet.”
In the early summer months, when Walker was at or near the top of many polls, the campaign expanded rapidly, growing to a staff of about 90, multiple reports said.
A National Review report said Walker’s campaign staff was larger than that of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and roughly three times as big as that of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Trouble arose when fundraising hit a wall after Walker’s poor showing in the first presidential debate, Politico reported.
The Post reported the campaign had about $700,000 in debt when Walker ended it. Politico’s report said the campaign had about $800,000 in bills and about $1 million cash on hand and was poised to go into the red within weeks.
State Sen. Dave Hansen of Green Bay and Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point, both Democrats, cited those reports Wednesday in calling on Walker to repay any campaign travel costs to the state.
Walker’s political nonprofit group said in April that it would reimburse the state for all of Walker’s political travel costs, including his state security detail.
“Most Wisconsinites did not want Gov. Walker to run,” Hansen said. “I imagine even fewer of them wanted to be footing any part of the bill for his presidential ambitions.”
Walker’s campaign paid the state back $14,000 for costs incurred through Aug. 1 and will pay all that is owed once final invoices are received, said Walker’s campaign spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowski.
Our American Revival, a political committee Walker formed in January before he officially became a candidate, made two payments to the state, according to an IRS filing. It shows the committee paid the state $33,427 on June 25 for security services and $5,829 on May 26 for use of a state vehicle.
Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the state Department of Administration, said Wednesday he did not immediately know the costs incurred by state security during Walker’s presidential bid.
‘Financial storm took him fast’
The Politico report said the financial collapse of Walker’s campaign prompted the pro-Walker super PAC, Unintimidated PAC, to consider drastic measures.
Leaders of the super PAC prepared “to take over many communications and political functions from the campaign, rather than staying in the traditional role of running TV ads,” Politico reported.
Even as Walker’s campaign was floundering financially, Unintimidated PAC had brimming coffers, having raised more than $20 million through June 30 and more after that.
But super PACs are legally barred from coordinating with the campaigns they support, limiting the extent to which they can directly assist their candidate.
Walker’s abrupt departure from the race — despite having a well-financed ally in Unintimidated PAC — was “a stark reminder that even unlimited money has its limits,” The New York Times reported.
By the end, reports suggest Walker, having been usurped by businessman Donald Trump, had begun to doubt himself.
“Walker had begun to doubt whether he could break through the cacophony created by Donald Trump, according to people familiar with his decision,” The Washington Post reported.
Anton said the campaign should have curbed spending after the first debate. He said everyone was stunned by the suddenness of Walker’s fundraising downturn.
“Nobody imagined that he wouldn’t make (the) Iowa (caucuses),” Anton said. “The financial storm took him fast.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.