Going into the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night Scott Walker knew he needed to conduct himself on stage in a far different fashion from the first national outing earlier their summer. He needed to fully use his allotted time, put meat on his answers, and work to present himself in the fashion that made for such a dramatic opening in his bid for the White House. Since the heady days earlier this year in Iowa his poll numbers have plummeted and the narrative of his campaign has been about flip-flopping and being in a race that is over his head.
During the debate Walker did present himself with more energy and willingness to engage and not wait to be called on to lend his perspective to the issues at hand. But he seemed unable to step into issues with any depth or sureness over what he was talking about. There was once again an over reliance on using the time-tested lines from the campaign stops to be offered up as responses.
The problem this morning is Walker did not elevate himself to the point that he changed his troubling narrative. While he may have improved his performance more than any other candidate from the first debate he did not do anything to catapult himself from the low single digits in the polls. Surely funders are paying attention to that troubling fact.
What struck me was how inconsequential to the evening Walker was. CNN understood his lack of relevancy and only asked two direct questions of him. The polls show the players are–and I can not believe I am writing this–Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. There was not a lot of time for others to make their points, but every other candidate was able to have more speaking time than Walker, as was also the case in the first debate. Wednesday night Walker got the least amount of airtime with just 8 1/2 minutes, which put him behind Mike Huckabee and John Kasich, who each had roughly nine minutes.
Even though Walker was marginally better this time than in Cleveland there was still much to be desired from his inability to wrap himself in the national issues and seem credible when doing so.
It was almost embarrassing to watch Walker be schooled about why working with leaders of other nations matter, such as the case with China or why agreements with those we disagree with are important to craft and honor. It made Walker look truly unprepared for the leadership duties that fall on a president when he seemed unable or unwilling to see the folly of cancelling a state dinner with the president of China or desiring to rip up the Iran nuclear deal on Day One.
I sat through this debate which lasted way too long and thought with dismay others around the world were also watching and wondering what in hell is wrong with America that would allow this crop of presidential contenders to rise to the top.