George Pataki exits GOP race, leaving hundreds in search of new candidate

As with most things in political news these days, I learned about this one on Twitter last night shortly after arriving home. Yes, the makeup of the 2016 GOP primary race has changed yet again. Former New York Governor George Pataki has bowed out.

The media quickly jumped all over the story, possibly because it was almost New Years Eve and nobody was watching anyway. (Bloomberg)

George Pataki, the three-term governor who led New York through the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on Tuesday quit the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

““While tonight is the end of my journey for the White House as I suspend my campaign for president, I’m confident we can elect the right person – someone who can bring us together,” the 70-year-old former governor said in his campaign valedictory: a video announcement made on YouTube and in a prime-time TV advertisement in the three early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

I think the only surprising element of the aftermath of the announcement was the rather uncharitable shot that Donald Trump took at Pataki, saying, “there’s not much to split up because he’s at zero.” Now, before you correct me, yes… it was a completely accurate statement. I don’t remember a poll where Governor Pataki registered above an asterisk in the results and this isn’t going to lead to any shift in the standings. But normally Trump goes after the folks who at least represent some sort of potential threat down the road, either through large fundraising hauls (Jeb!) or a surge in the polls for a period, such as Christie most recently. He’s generally been fairly charitable towards those who weren’t much of a threat and I know that he’s done a lot of business deals in the same circles as Pataki.

This announcement by itself probably wouldn’t have merited any virtual ink here, but as I’ve discussed with our readers before, I’ve always like George and he’s been a big help to many Republicans in New York over the years since his time in the Governor’s Mansion. He’s a good guy and always makes time for his friends and those who have tried to put themselves out there and serve the public. This never looked like a race with any place for him, but he’s a good man and I salute his many years of public service.

Speaking of people that Trump might be taking more shots at, Ted Cruz has been drawing a lot more media fire during the holiday period. One report this week coming from the Washington Post examines how a Cruz victory in Iowa might finally spell the end for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Every Republican who has won the Iowa caucuses since 1980 has strongly backed ethanol. Bob Dole was known in 1988 and 1996 as “Senator Ethanol.” Citing his opposition to ethanol, John McCain basically bypassed the Hawkeye State in 2000 and 2008. George W. Bush followed through on his promise to “strongly support” the corn-for-energy industry, creating the Renewable Fuel Standard, which still requires refiners to mix a certain amount of ethanol into gasoline. Some credit Rick Santorum’s narrow Iowa victory in 2012 to his vocal support for biofuels, a flip-flop from his time in the Senate.

— Enter Ted Cruz. Insiders agree the Texas senator is the current frontrunner going into the Feb. 1 caucuses. He’s been unabashedly critical of federal support for ethanol, including the RFS, which he sees as market-distorting corporate welfare.

— Recognizing he poses an existential threat to the special benefits it receives from the government, the corn lobby is going all in to stop Cruz in Iowa.

Here’s the exit question for this story, such as it is. We’ve got another debate coming up on January 14th. The undercard ranks were already growing pretty thin this month to say the least. Now we’ve lost Lindsey Graham and George Pataki. On top of that, Rand Paul already said that he would refuse to show up for a kiddie table debate if he gets downgraded. (That’s not to say that it would be the first time in US political history when a politician backtracked and walked out on stage chewing a mouthful of crow, but it would be an awkward moment for him to say the least.) At this point we might be looking at an early debate composed entirely of Rick Santorum if they don’t trim the field at the main event. So will the hosts flush more people down to the cheap seats and give us a debate with just five or six at the top? That might see folks like Kasich and Fiorina down there hanging out with Santorum, and possibly Bush as well.

Do they just let everyone on the main stage and bloat it into a huge circus again or really start trimming down the field? Or… could we really imagine a situation where they just shut out the bottom tier candidates entirely and only give the top draws a seat? The latter seems the least likely since they would be accused of all manner of election rigging. Still, if we lose a few more people by the second week of January we may start getting down to a manageable sized field.


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