Following a dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses Monday night, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced that he was suspending his presidential campaign. Huckabee became an overnight sensation in 2008 when he won Iowa, but his religious conservatism never quite got off the ground in the year of Trump. Now pundits are wondering where Huckabee’s shallow base of voters will go; the smart money is on either Ted Cruz or Ben Carson.
But aside from the specific impact of Huckabee’s departure, his choice to stop running should provide a model for many of the other Republican candidates to mimic. This field of contenders was overcrowded from the start, but it’s past time for some of these candidates to get serious about their chances. Until they do, they are clogging up the debate stage and needlessly diversifying the primary vote.
So why don’t they drop out? Does Chris Christie really believe he has a chance to win this thing? Does Carly Fiorina realize that her moment in the spotlight is over? What is John Kasich thinking?
For Jeb Bush, the dilemma is a little more clear. He came into this race with the same air of inevitability that surrounded Hillary Clinton. Donors flocked to him, allowing him to build up a war chest that is perhaps unprecedented in political history. If he’s still holding on to a delusional belief that his money will somehow make up for voter apathy (and, in many instances, disdain), well, you can almost understand why. This was supposed to be his time, damn it!
The others, though, don’t have that excuse. They’re hanging on to boost their own visibility. To nab book deals. To secure TV gigs. Perhaps even to put themselves in line for a VP nod. But they are not seriously in the hunt for the nomination, and that means they are actually harming the democratic process by remaining in the race. The patriotic thing to do would be to drop out.
The Iowa results have clarified the course of this race. It’s down to three men: Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio. That’s enough ideological diversity to make for an interesting and substantive competition. But as long as there are all of these other go-nowhere candidates in the field, we can’t quite get to the debate we need to be having about which of these three choices is best. For the good of America, they need to follow Huckabee’s lead.