Scott Walker made it clear as he dropped out of the race for the White House that he believes other Republican candidates should do the same. That got me thinking… just who might be next to go?
It took a bit of thinking to come up with this shortlist, because there are all kinds of things to consider. Low poll numbers aren’t necessarily a killer. You might think Lindsey Graham would be on his way out, but having a very inexpensive campaign machine he would be well-advised to hedge his bets and wait to see if one or two more dropouts might see a scrapping of the two-tier debate format. Graham performed admirably at the last debate, and I would argue won the debate on the small stage. With the field thinning, he might be hoping he can hang on long enough to get on the main stage with the real top-tier candidates. That would give him more exposure and hopefully boost his campaign.
Money, or rather, the lack of it, is crucial in determining who might quit next. Candidates who’ve overspent relative to donations will find themselves in trouble, and the plain truth is that without significant cash resources, it’s impossible to be competitive. This was Scott Walker’s problem, and he’s not alone. Chris Christie and Rand Paul have both been reported to be having similar cashflow problems. The difficulty with the money issue is that not every campaign declares how much they’re taking in, spending, and have spare, so it can be hard using that as a predictive factor.
That being said, here’s my shortlist of candidates vying to become the next dropout from the race to be President:
#5: Rick Santorum
His “Iowa strategy” was never a great way to build a campaign. By focusing so entirely on one single state, it leaves precious little time after the first-in-the-nation caucuses to put together the rest of what has to be a nationwide campaign. But that isn’t what’s harming Santorum. What’s going to stop his second attempt at the presidency is the simple fact that he’s not even close to winning in Iowa, the state on which all of his hopes rest. His advantage is that he’s keeping his campaign costs relatively low, but as it becomes increasingly clear that he can’t even win Iowa, any residual support he has will dry up, and so will his funding.
#4: Rand Paul
He’s been having a torrid time lately. A weak campaign launch led to a surprisingly successful few weeks of campaigning, which saw Paul’s strongly libertarian position on the issue of government surveillance gain popularity. But lately he’s foundered, languishing well down in the single-digits. He only just scraped his way onto the main stage for the debate (Carly Fiorina would’ve stolen his spot if CNN had been fair about their inclusion criteria). Taking on Donald Trump hasn’t worked out very well, either. He still has some support from the party’s libertarian wing, but even there he’s seeing supporters – and donors – desert him for other candidates.
#3: Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckabee’s second White House bid has never really taken off. Mediocre debate performances have contributed to mediocre poll numbers, and while he remains a top-tier candidate, he’s at the bottom of that top-tier. He’s had to compete with several others for the evangelical/religious right vote, leaving him trailing badly even in Iowa. Like Santorum, Huckabee’s hopes also rest entirely on Iowa to act as a springboard, but if he continues to trail there he’s unlikely to make it to the caucuses. His strong support for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to prohibit statewide bans on gay marriage, smacked more of a TV host’s publicity stunt than anything political. While it may have increased his appeal among the Christian right, that’s a category he should’ve been winning already, and Davis’ position is not supported even by a majority of Republicans so the issue may have hurt him more than it helped.
#2: Jim Gilmore
Who? Gilmore not only didn’t qualify for either of the main debates, he failed to qualify for even the second-tier CNN debate as his poll numbers were below 1%. He spent his evening twittering his answers to approximately 1,000 twitter followers. Not a promising development. His quitting the race would make about as much difference to the field as his entering it did.
#1: Bobby Jindal
Jindal has had a very poor race so far. He’s unpopular in his own state, and he just hasn’t made any sort of real impact on even the second-tier candidates he’s been debating against. Santorum and Huckabee have a clear strategy in targeting Iowa. Other candidates have other strategies, like Jeb Bush courting the party’s biggest donors, or on the other side of the aisle, Sanders focusing much of his energy on New Hampshire. Jindal has no strategy. There’s no one thing we can point to to say: “ah, if he does that well he’s got a chance”, because he isn’t targeting one particular group, or one particular state. He’s just drifting – which kind of sums up his candidacy. He’s drifted about on many issues, including birthright citizenship, to such an extent that most voters (the ones who’ve heard of him in any case) couldn’t even tell you what he stands for or what he’d do if elected. He’s my top pick to become the next dropout for those reasons.
On the other side of the political divide, what of the Democrats? Bernie Sanders continues to gain momentum and support, while a wooden Hillary Clinton continues to lose it. She’s now running consistently behind Sanders in New Hampshire, and he’s nipping at her heels in Iowa. This won’t force her out, of course. But there’s still plenty that could.
#1: Hillary Clinton
The e-mail scandal. It hasn’t gone away, and in fact it’s got an awful lot worse for the Democratic front-runner. First she broke the rules (if not the law). Then, she was forced to turn over her private e-mail served to the government, and the FBI have been poring over it. As I’ve already pointed out, the e-mail scandal boils down to this: we’re asked to believe that not only is Mrs Clinton honest when she says that she voluntarily turned over everything work related, but that she’s substantially more honest than the average person and didn’t succumb to the surely massive temptation to quietly delete anything which might’ve been embarrassing (let alone anything incriminating). Do we believe that Mrs Clinton is such a paragon of virtue? According to sustained polling data, most American voters don’t. So expect more to come from the e-mail scandal. It hasn’t gone away yet, and it isn’t likely to any time soon. Right now I’d say her chances of still being in contention in three-six months’ time are evens. It depends mostly on the scandals swirling around her.
So there we have it. Two down already, and surely more to go before too long. The 2016 race is getting interesting, and we’re still well over a year out!