Scott Walker is betting the farm on Iowa, acknowledging in unusually stark terms that his struggling presidential campaign will live or die in the Hawkeye State.
Once the front-runner in the first-up caucus state, the former Wisconsin governor has fallen far back in polls there. And where he once was campaigning—and spending money—across the country, he now says he’ll limit his scope.
“I think we’re putting all our eggs in the basket of Iowa, we’re committed to Iowa, and I think that’ll help us make the case all throughout the country,” Walker told MSNBC in an interview in the spin room after Wednesday night’s GOP debate.
The comments represent an unusually frank assessment from a candidate — as opposed to a strategist or operative — about the execution of a campaign.
Walker has a reputation for being deeply involved in his own campaigns, often serving as his own top strategic adviser. He became a conservative hero after taking on unions in Wisconsin, but so far, many Republicans privately say he hasn’t been able to prove that resume is sufficient for the job of commander-in-chief.
In the interview, Walker dismissed a question about a rumored staff shakeup in the way of his plummeting poll numbers.
“The biggest thing for us is getting back to the basics, getting in to Iowa and the early states, 99 county county chairs, we’re gonna be organized by the precinct,” he said when asked directly if he needed to make personnel changes.
Walker brought most of his senior advisers with him to the Reagan Library to help him prepare for a debate that advisers privately acknowledged was a do-or-die moment for him. Among those who helped prep Walker at a nearby Courtyard by Marriott were pollster and strategist Ed Goeas, campaign manager Rick Wiley and GOP super lawyer Ben Ginsberg.
During the beginning of the debate, Walker managed to insert himself into the conversation even as moderators didn’t direct many questions directly to him. But by the end, it was clear he was largely missing from the proceedings: Of all 11 candidates on stage, Walker spent the least amount of time talking.