More should follow Scott Walker's lead

Story highlights

  • Buck Sexton: In a crowded GOP field, Donald Trump remains the one to beat
  • Sexton: It's hard for any single candidate to gather momentum and overtake Trump
  • More GOP contender dead-enders should drop out like Scott Walker, he says

Buck Sexton is a political commentator for CNN and host of "The Buck Sexton Show" on TheBlaze. He was previously a CIA counterterrorism analyst. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race this week, exiting with the same forgettable tone that unfortunately defined and doomed his 2016 campaign.

Despite an impressive record in his state -- including the defeat of a recall effort against him that at times mimicked Occupy Wall Street -- Walker has an "aw shucks" persona that just wasn't enough to win over the Republican Party faithful. Battling unions and battling ISIS are very different things; Walker appeared entirely unready for the national stage.

Buck Sexton
With polls numbers at an unsalvageable less than 1%, funds running out, and a performance in the two GOP debates that could be charitably called lackluster, Walker clearly needed to go.
    But he doesn't want to go alone.
    Walker implored other struggling candidates to follow his (and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's) example and quit the race early. His statement that he wanted to "lead by helping clear the field" (self-serving though it was) could create some pressure, both inside the Republic National Committee and from voters to get bottom-rung candidates to bow out before they flame out and damage the more serious candidates in the process.
    As the postmortems of the Walker campaign pile up, his failed bid has led to some obvious questions for the rest of the GOP hopefuls. If Walker is out, what about those candidates with even less favorable odds of victory? Shouldn't a few more tap out at this stage of the race?
    The answer is yes -- a bunch of them should.
    A quick look at the polls shows the remaining candidates from the "kids table" second-tier debate -- Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum -- are all stuck in the 1% or less club. In fact, a Fox News poll this week shows Santorum, Jindal and Graham at 0%. Jim Gilmore didn't even qualify for the CNN debate, and his biggest problem seems to be that voters have no idea who he is (tough to win a national election under those conditions).
    Barring a miracle, none of the aforementioned candidates is going to be president.
    Yet many GOP contender dead-enders will probably linger on, perhaps for months -- and that could cause problems down the line for whichever "real" candidates are left standing.
    With more than a dozen candidates still (technically) in it, there is certainly a case to be made for more rapid consolidation based on the sheer numbers. Splitting attention between so many candidates increasingly begins to feel less like a robust primary and more like a game show. And at the end of it all, only one man or woman will get the nomination, yet momentum and resources already spent could be deciding factors when facing the Democratic nominee.
    More than anything, this GOP primary season is a special case. A big reason for those who call for more candidates to drop out sooner, one that Walker alluded to in the speech that ended his campaign, is in fact one of the candidates himself: Donald Trump.
    Whatever one's feelings about Trump, he is the biggest showman on the GOP stage right now and still leading in the polls. Enthusiasm for him among his supporters is unparalleled. In a crowded field, he is the one to beat.
    So if you believe, as many do, that Trump is damaging the GOP brand (especially as its front-runner), the only way to end his reign quickly is if the field of candidates becomes less fractured, allowing the best of the rest to rise.
    This has started to happen with Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, and will no doubt continue in the weeks ahead. But with so many candidates fighting for attention, it is hard for any single one to gather momentum and overtake the Trump surge.
    Whether that reality will push the "good enough to stay in it, not to win it" candidates to figure out it's time to go remains to be seen. But the difference between a long shot and a spoiler in this contest may just be an honest look in the mirror and a willingness to put the Republican Party -- and America -- first.