Jon Huntsman finally saw the writing on the wall. Now, why can't the rest of them?
Huntsman is slated to drop out of the race for the Republican nomination Monday and endorse Mitt Romney, an overdue conclusion to a disappointing campaign. But that still leaves four candidates whose hopes of winning the nomination are slender.
Despite Romney's unprecedented victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire, his healthy lead in every South Carolina poll released in the last two weeks, his prohibitive fundraising and organizational advantages, these four men -- Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Ron Paul -- will spend the week in advance of the Jan. 21 primary tearing around the Palmetto State, trying to convince the voters who have selected the Republican nominee without fail since 1980 that they still stand a chance.
Though Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally served to winnow the field, a lively chorus of also-rans perseveres. Their motivations are unclear, but seem to consist of a cocktail of wishful thinking and lack of anything better to do.
"I can't for the life of me figure out why someone like [Rick] Perry [is] staying in the race," said a strategist for a rival campaign. "I think part of it is how the race played out from the straw poll to the [Iowa] caucus. Everyone got a chance to be in the lead.... Thus, those who are staying in believe they have a chance to catch lightning. I don't see it, but hope dies last."
Indeed, every gyration of the race thus far has rewarded sticking it out when things seemed hopeless: Santorum was polling in single digits a week before the caucuses, only to surge at the finish and tie Romney with 25 percent of the vote. The proliferation of debates has increased the opportunities for sudden turning points, and with them, the lottery-like sense that at any moment, fortune's favor might turn in a new direction. One minute you're Herman Cain, long-shot candidate on an extended book tour; the next, you're Herman Cain, first place in the polls; the next, you're Herman Cain, disgraced ex-candidate, and it's someone else's turn in the revolving door.
It is always possible that something terrible could suddenly happen to Romney. But it is usually a bad sign for your candidacy if you're only sticking around as an understudy.
Perry appeared to have gotten the message after his fifth-place finish in Iowa, saying in his concession that night that he would go back to Texas and reassess his campaign. But he woke up the next morning determined to continue, surprising his own staff by announcing on Twitter he was headed to South Carolina.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment