Walker donors surprised he dropped out

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Scott Walker’s wealthiest donors are in shock after the Wisconsin governor stunned all but a tiny inner circle with his decision to terminate his presidential campaign on Monday evening. 

{mosads}Although Walker had a tepid debate and his poll numbers were down, donors were buoyed by assurances last Thursday by Walker and his staff, who laid out a plan to move forward. 

Many, in fact, were in the middle of fundraising efforts for Walker’s super-PAC, convinced that they could raise the money to help him stay in the race. Others, however, saw low attendance at upcoming fundraising events as clues to how much the candidate was struggling. 

One of Walker’s major supporters, the Dallas-based biotech investor Chart Westcott, said he first found out about Walker leaving the race through the media. 

“I had just got out of a meeting and I got a call from a reporter telling me about it,” said Westcott, who gave $200,000 to the pro-Walker super-PAC Unintimidated.  

“All of a sudden the calls just started pouring in. … For me it was just like raining phones. 

“I would say it was surprising,” Westcott added. The week before, there was definitely talk of a shake-up inside the campaign, Westcott said, but he thought they could have recovered and he had faith that Walker could be the comeback kid. 

Westcott said he had pledged to give more money to the Walker super-PAC and believed that with time, the public would come to understand the governor’s unique appeal. 

“Walker — his story is not a sound-bite story,” Westcott explained. “It’s a narrative. It’s the story of a guy who tried to shake up his state and faced … a level of vitriol and hatred that’s on a whole other level.” 

But, Westcott added, the debate format “just doesn’t favor what his strengths were.”   

Walker’s major donors did not expect the candidate to withdraw on Monday, and as recently as Sunday, many were calling donors and organizing the next round of fundraising events to replenish the campaign’s dwindling coffers. 

A source familiar with Walker’s super-PAC said the outside group — which reported $20 million in its midyear account — was on pace to raise $40 million. That figure was first reported by Politico

“Was I surprised? Yes,” the source said. “The super-PAC was flush with cash and had just started putting out ads.” The source, who has less exposure to the campaign side, said he had only learned in the past 12 hours the full extent of the financial troubles plaguing the Walker campaign. 

Walker and his National Finance Co-Chairman Todd Ricketts had assured Walker’s biggest financial supporters on Thursday that they had a strategy to win, that their campaign team was solid, and that they were in it for the long haul.  

During that Thursday donor call, Walker talked the donors through the mathematics of winning Iowa county by county, and Ricketts closed the call by saying that they just needed “enough gas in the Winnebago” to keep going.  

Walker’s National Finance Co-Chairman Anthony Scaramucci then spent his weekend on conference calls organizing the next round of pro-Walker fundraising in New York. 

Team Walker was planning a series of fundraisers — organized to haul in maximum donations of $2,700, starting with a New York event on Sep. 24 at Ricketts’s apartment in the Time Warner Center, three sources familiar with the event’s planning said. 

But only 30-40 donors were planning to attend the Ricketts event, which would have been a reasonable attendance for early 2015, but was a bad sign for this stage in a presidential primary, a source said. Another source familiar with the event’s planning said he would not dispute that figure but insisted that many more donors could have been rallied between now and Thursday had Walker not dropped out. 

A donor event for major Walker supporters at Chicago’s Wrigley Field was also planned. 

Scaramucci says he thinks he and his team of bundlers could have raised enough money to keep the campaign going, despite dwindling funds and speculation that Walker was going to have to lay off a number of staff for the campaign to stay solvent. 

“Other people wanted him to stay in the race including myself,” Scaramucci said on Tuesday morning. “I think we could have raised some money this week in New York.” 

Staying in the race “was something we could do,” added Scaramucci. “We still had money. We still had PAC money,” he said. 

Scaramucci said he respected Walker’s decision, which the governor described as a “calling” and a selfless act for the good of the Republican Party — to winnow the field so a principled, optimistic conservative could defeat Donald Trump. 

Another of Walker’s donors said that recently it was getting more difficult to raise campaign funds for the Governor as his poll numbers continued to drop. 

“The way this works is I can go out to my friends and I can raise you a good amount of money,” the donor said. “Then you have to catch fire and I have to start raising you money from strangers. 

“I have got enough affluent friends that will write a check for me. … But you’ve got to go outside of that universe to be successful.”

On Tuesday morning Westcott said he had still yet to hear from Walker but had spoken to many of his fellow Walker donors and advisers, many of whom are planning their next move.  

Westcott has not decided who he will support now Walker has dropped out, and says he wants someone “who will completely shake up the status quo in Washington.” He said a number of the big Walker donors are going to take a while to reassess the Republican primary race before they fully commit to another candidate.

Another major donor who was waiting to hear from Walker on Tuesday morning was the Minnesota billionaire Stanley Hubbard, who had given $50,000 to the pro-Walker super-PAC. 

“I haven’t heard from him yet, I expect I will,” Hubbard said. “I’ll send him a little email and say, ‘Scott I’m really sorry. I’m thinking a lot of people should drop out but I don’t think you should be the one.’

“A lot of [the Republican field] would do a big favor to their country if they would drop out.” 

Some within the Walker fundraising network say what they have learned from this is that a well-stocked super-PAC is not enough and that campaign funds — which Walker’s campaign team can control (unlike super-PAC money, which must be spent independently) — are essential, no matter how many millions in outside money a candidate has. 

“I think what we have seen and the story in this campaign,” Westcott said, “is that even in the super-PAC age you still need dollars to pay the campaign staff.”

Tags Donald Trump Scott Walker

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