Scott Walker bowed out of the race last night because he knew he could not win, and he wanted someone with a positive vision for America to have a chance. To the end, Scott Walker was thinking about the causes he believes in rather than his own personal success – which, sadly, is probably one of the reasons that he was the second candidate to bow out in a field which (inexplicably) contains national jokes [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ] and George Pataki.
Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.
I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner. This is fundamentally important to the future of our party, and, more important, the future of the country.
I am not here to encourage the Grahams and Patakis of the world to drop out – their support is such that even if they did, no one would notice, and it wouldn’t help consolidate the field at all.
However, there is one candidate in the field who is still registering measurable support, and who must know nonetheless that he cannot win, and that is Mike Huckabee.
If Huckabee ever had a realistic shot to win, it was during 2008, when the Republican field was light years weaker, and his cornpone “I feel your pain” poor-man’s-Bill-Clinton schtick was more well-suited to the national mood. Nothing in the polling this year indicates that Huckabee has any chance to crack double digits in the polls again or to seriously contend to actually win the nomination.
I don’t think Mike Huckabee was ever in this thing to win it, which is why he was out there stumping on his book tour while he was allegedly running for President. I think that Huckabee from the beginning jumped in to make sure that social issues had a place in the national conversation, and to solidify his standing as one of the chief kingmakers among social conservatives. He wanted all the other candidates to have to make the polite noises and at least do obeisance towards the social conservative wing of the party in order to win.
And at this point, he’s already made that point. By flying out stand with Kim Davis, he forced the hand of several other candidates to make public statements in support of religious liberty. With Huckabee on the stage, no one has dared to suggest that Planned Parenthood should continue to receive public funding.
But the longer Huckabee stays in the race, continuing to attract his 5-8% of dedicated supporters, the less efficacious his support will become. Huckabee’s biggest asset, specifically, is his cachet among evangelical conservatives in Iowa. If Huckabee throws his support behind a candidate there, and stands on stage lauding that candidate there and in South Carolina, he stands to wring quite a bit out of that candidate in the end game. And he could do some real good for the conservative movement in the process.
If, however, he plays out a replay of 2008 and sticks it through to the bitter end, he’ll continue to draw all his supporters to himself in a race that he cannot win, and away from a candidate who might share his viewpoints and be a less bad alternative to the front runner.
Compare this to what Scott Walker did. By bowing out when he did, Walker essentially gave himself a couple of months for the country to forget what a mess his campaign became before the Iowa caucuses roll around. By that time, you can bet that Walker’s standing with conservatives will have risen back to the high levels he previously enjoyed, such that his endorsement (if he chooses to make one) will likely pack a significant punch in Iowa and other Midwestern states.
People may have decided they don’t want Scott Walker as the nominee, but Walker exited before his campaign could dent him and his standing personally – Walker is still viewed very favorably by the Republican electorate and will probably be more so after a couple of weeks out of the harsh glare of the Presidential primary spotlight. On the other hand, if Huckabee sticks with this thing until after Iowa (and definitely until after Super Tuesday), his standing and efficacy as an endorser will diminish to only his hardcore base of support, as the attacks against him will again highlight the less desirable aspects of his record that came to light in 2008.
It all depends, really, on what Mike Huckabee wants to get out of this election. Does he want to enlarge his personal brand at the expense of his cause, or does he want to enlarge his cause at the expense of his personal brand?
Scott Walker answered that question the right way last night.
Your move, Mike Huckabee.