Pour one out for Scotty boy, his all-too-brief campaign has come to an end. After Scott Walker’s surprising announcement on Monday that he’s quitting the race, many political observers are asking the question: who’s next? If someone like Walker, who was the Iowa front-runner for all but about one or two months, could suddenly implode and be done, it could probably happen to almost anyone.
Here’s Starting Line’s best guess as to which other Republicans may be asking themselves very tough questions about whether they can – or want to – continue:
1. Donald Trump
Bold prediction time: I do not think Trump will still be in the race by the time the Iowa Caucus rolls around, and actually, he may drop out within just a few weeks. The “Summer of Trump” is over, the excitement is starting to wane, and you can already tell he’s not having as much fun. Yesterday Trump attended an event in South Carolina where a third of the seats went unfilled, he complained non-stop about the media citing a poll he wasn’t leading enough in and seemed more than ready to be done with the moderator’s questions. He also announced yesterday that he won’t do any more Fox News interviews, as he feels they’re treating him “unfairly.” The shtick is getting old, and there’s clear signs the media and voters are tiring of the Trump outrage feedback loop.
So much of Trump’s talking points have relied upon boasting about his polling numbers, and he seems to draw energy from crushing the rest of the Republican field. So what happens when he isn’t? All of Trump’s campaign events have been one-day round-trip flights out to a rally to soak up media exposure and then race home to Trump Tower. It’s been a surprisingly easy time commitment for Trump – does anyone think he’d actually hit the road for multi-day swings in Iowa to really work for the nomination in he falters?
My guess is Trump will soon make his exit. Once the fun ceases and the press and voters sour on lavishing him with attention, he’ll decide it was a fun ride while it lasted, but it’s time to go back to making money. The irony of it all will be that his run will only end up helping his hated nemesis, Jeb Bush, as Trump’s dominance of the headlines forced out of the race two of Bush’s more credible opponents.
2. Rand Paul
Why did both Rick Perry and Scott Walker call it quits? They were both well-respected candidates who couldn’t pay their decent-sized staff (in Perry’s case) or their huge, professional operation (in Walker’s case) after they ran out of momentum and money. While Paul comes from the movement libertarian part of the party, as opposed to being a governor, you can see some comparisons here. Early on he seemed like a potential top-tier contender, likely to capture a part of the Republican Party few others had respect in. But a lackluster campaign and the indictments of his long-time aids who were running his Super PAC have destroyed his polling numbers and exposed him as a somehow far worse candidate than his loony father.
Paul doesn’t even campaign that much and has come across as whiny, petulant and unhappy in debates and at his own events. And if you’re a strong ideological candidate likely to lose, you’d at least hope you can push the party toward your beliefs, but even that hasn’t caught on. There is little reason for Paul to continue on (other than he’s already agreed to pay for the Kentucky Republican caucus). Once his money dries up and he struggles to pay his staff, why would he keep going?
3. Chris Christie
What is Christie’s path to the nomination at this point? Yes, he’s doing rather well in the debates, but he hasn’t seen his poll numbers improve, nor does his name pop up in many news cycles. He doesn’t come to Iowa much, though New Hampshire was always going to factor larger in his early state strategy. And yet John Kasich has captured the momentum there, filling the role of the get-it-done governor type that Christie desperately wants.
4 – 5. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee
I list both of them here, but I doubt either will actually drop out. Santorum has bottomed out at 1% or 2% in every poll, if even that. But he probably doesn’t care. He seems happy to keep driving around Iowa and showing up at the multi-candidate events. Huckabee is still making waves by presenting himself as the candidate willing to say the most ridiculous, offensive and hateful things to get attention. But no one really cares about Huckabee, and Ted Cruz will eventually cannibalize all his evangelical support. Once that happens, Huckabee may rethink whether his money-making infomercial career is best served by coming in 8th in Iowa.
6. Bobby Jindal
I also don’t believe Jindal will call it quits, but list him here as an example of someone who could be toast by now if he hadn’t run his campaign as smart as he has. He knows he’ll languish near obscurity for a while longer, and didn’t build a massive campaign operation that he couldn’t sustain. His Super PAC is doing some of the advertising and organizing spending for him, a better arrangement than most other candidates have. He’s also been impressing evangelical audiences in Iowa and has much more potential to move up than previous candidates like Santorum and Huckabee. His lean campaign and Iowa work-ethic puts him in position to capture some of the angry conservative vote that Trump has stolen once Trump exits the stage. Now if only Cruz would falter…
by Pat Rynard