It’s a distant memory now but in the last two weeks of September, after her celebrated attack on Trump at the second Republican debate, she was in double digits nationally and in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. Then everyone just … moved on and she was a low single-digits candidate the rest of the way. Even now, I’m not sure what she did to fade so quickly and durably. I suppose it was a simple matter of her being outraised and outspent and then suffocated by Trump’s total domination of earned media.
Of all the dark-horse candidates who’ve run in GOP presidential primaries over the last eight years, she seemed to have the most potential to become a real threat. She knew her stuff, she could debate with the pros, and she wasn’t obviously trying to move merchandise. Kind of a shame that she ended up as marginal as she did. From her statement:
This campaign was always about citizenship—taking back our country from a political class that only serves the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well connected. Election after election, the same empty promises are made and the same poll-tested stump speeches are given, but nothing changes. I’ve said throughout this campaign that I will not sit down and be quiet. I’m not going to start now. While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them…
To young girls and women across the country, I say: do not let others define you. Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you’re a woman. That is not feminism. Feminism doesn’t shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent. A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts. And always remember that a leader is not born, but made. Choose leadership.
As I have said to the many wonderful Americans I have met throughout this campaign, a leader is a servant whose highest calling is to unlock potential in others. I will continue to serve in order to restore citizen government to this great nation so that together we may fulfill our potential.
She did indeed improve her standing in the party by running, another rarity among dark horses. What does she do with that standing now, though? No Republican is getting elected to major statewide office in California, a fact that Fiorina has already learned the hard way. She could be a useful surrogate for one of the other candidates this year and end up in a Republican administration, but she seems a better fit for someone like Rubio or Bush than for Cruz. (Let’s not even mention Trump.) And Rubio and Bush are longshots at this point. Whatever the answer, you’ll see her again at the GOP convention, very likely in primetime. And that’s true whether her pal Donald is the nominee or not.
So Christie’s out, Fiorina’s out — what about the remaining also-ran, Ben Carson? Carson’s got two good reasons to keep going that Fiorina didn’t have. One is that, to all appearances, moving merchandise is a key part of his campaign, even if it isn’t necessarily a key motive for Carson himself. And two, if Team Carson is as angry as Ted Cruz as they’ve claimed to be over his “dirty trick” in Iowa, they could get sweet revenge by sticking around in South Carolina and peeling off enough evangelical votes from him to tilt the election away from Cruz and towards Trump. Is Carson going to try to ice Cruz? Maybe not, says Erick Erickson:
What about Ben Carson? I am told he is having private meetings with a number of prominent social conservatives. It sounds like Carson is in the process of winding down his campaign and everyone is pursuing him for an endorsement.
It will probably come soon.
Carson damaging Cruz would be a foolish way to alienate some social conservatives at a moment when he’s already gotten pretty much everything he could realistically get out of his candidacy. Once he collapsed in Iowa in November, the rest of the campaign was essentially an exercise in raising his profile and giving it the ol’ college try in a few early states. He’s done that, and he’s gotten some extra sympathy from Cruz’s supposed “dirty trick” to boot. What’s to be gained now from staying in when he could free up some extra evangelical votes for Cruz and earn a little more goodwill from the Christian right by quitting?