Given the speed with which Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign sank over the summer, his exit from the 2016 Republican presidential nominating contest won't leave much of a wake in Texas public opinion. The second choice preferences in that race reveal who Walker appealed to before he was forced to abandon ship, though the limitations of what early polling numbers can tell us underline just how shallow his appeal really was – and that Walker's peak was too little, too soon. Still, as this so far twisting and turning nomination race continues to develop, the second choice results for Walker from the June poll do reveal a provocative possibility for the March primary in Texas.
The second-choice preferences of Walker supporters in the June University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll provide us with some limited insight into where potential Walker support might flow in his absence. June was still early, particular in light of the Summer of Trump that followed. Most of Walker's remaining support in June went to Texans Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, understandable defaults in a field crowded with little-known, out-of-state candidates 10 months before the actual primary election. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's success as a second choice among Walker supporters is intriguing – he ranked third among the Walker second choices with 17 percent, roughly equal to Perry. While Trump's flare and impact on the race since this polling makes these results provisional at this point, there are signs that his candidacy is finally cooling. Should Trump recede into the background or even drop out, it's hard not to be a little intrigued by the possibility of Cruz and Rubio being strong contenders in the Texas GOP race given a party that is sharply divided – mainly between elites and a significant share of primary voters – over how to manage immigration as a policy and a political issue in the face of unavoidable demographic trends that predict a steady increase in the Latino population – and their share of the electorate.
Walker's exit follows a rise and fall in the attention paid him by Texas voters that worked roughly in tandem with his time on the national stage. Walker made headlines in Texas by essentially tying with Cruz, the perpetual front runner in all of the (very) early 2016 trial ballots, in the February 2015 instance of the UT/TT Poll. However, even when those results were released, it was clear that the timing of the February poll couldn't have been better for Walker. The data collection period for that poll occurred during a boom in positive national media coverage for the Wisconsin Governor, but before the (inevitable) follow-up scrutiny that yielded more mixed reviews.
In the June 2015 poll conducted three months later, Walker was still a presence, but his decline was evident. He ran further behind Cruz, and slightly behind former governor Perry, who in the intervening months had announced his candidacy and enjoyed/enjoys widespread name recognition in the state after fourteen years as governor. Perry was the first candidate to exit the race.