It was sad to see Sen. Lindsey Graham exit the presidential race on Monday. We’d looked forward to making Princess Buttercup jokes at least until the Feb. 20 South Carolina GOP primary.
But, alas, the dainty Southern gentleman has left the running, leaving, as of this writing, only 13 Republican candidates in the ring.
Who’s next, you ask?
Times are too damned weird to tell, say political observers.
Few will even touch the question.
“There are plenty of people who are already offering suggestions as to who should, but very few people are saying who is going to because so many things have happened that are just so different from normal kinds of times,” said University of South Florida political analyst Susan MacManus. Few guessed that Graham would drop out so far ahead of his home state’s primary, but here we are.
In lieu of predicting who will drop out when, some politicos ballpark the likely results based on how candidates do in certain primaries.
There are a few generalities we can go with, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
For Republicans, he said, the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries will each be a reckoning, but in different ways. The Jesus candidates — Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum — will rely on Iowa as their test case, while the more mainstream guys — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, even Carly Fiorina — will do so with New Hampshire. Cruz and Marco Rubio, he said, are likely in the race for the long haul. Same goes for Bush, despite languishing in the polls. Carson and Fiorina appear to be heading downward, he said.
Then, of course, there’s the big orange elephant in the room.
“It wouldn’t surprise me tomorrow if [Trump] said he was stopping the race. Nothing would surprise me with him, really,” Kondik said. “But we could see a quick curtain for him if he starts to lose, given how focused he is on ‘winning’ his polls.”
MacManus said it’s easy to see why so many are still in the race. Enhanced face time on a national stage could lead to a prime cabinet position if a Republican wins the White House.
As for the much simpler three-person Democratic primary, it’s somewhat of a given that Martin O’Malley will drop out if he has a paltry showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, Kondik said. As for Bernie Sanders, even if he doesn’t become the frontrunner, he’s likely to stay in to push his message out while keeping Hillary Clinton honest.
“I doubt seriously that there’s any way you’ll see Sanders drop out,” MacManus said.
Regardless of what actually happens, it’s going to be a very colorful year. Accordingly, we’d like to offer a few predictions of our own: The 2016 Presidential Candidate Deathpool.
Mike Huckabee. In an attempt to appeal to the “kids,” Huck joins a Led Zeppelin tribute band unironically dubbed Dancin’ Daze. He goes all in as John Paul Jones, but gets a little too into the part as the group reenacts the legendary band’s notorious off-stage antics, including the infamous mudshark incident. The drummer from the Vanilla Fudge tribute band catches the hijinks on film, the video goes viral a week before Iowa, and Huckabee coincidentally decides to spend more time with his family.
Jim Gilmore. The obscure GOP presidential hopeful bows out ahead of Super Tuesday when he realizes he filed the wrong paperwork. He’d thought he was filling out Medicare forms.
Martin O’Malley. With little luck in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic former Baltimore mayor decides to follow his passion and invents a three-wheeled bicycle. Remains obscure.
John Kasich/Rand Paul/George Pataki/Jeb Bush/Rick Santorum. After a crap showing in New Hampshire, the five drop out to form a jazz quintet, which Bush insists on calling “!”.
Ted Cruz. Fearing the great embarrassment of losing the primary in his home state of Texas (an electorate obsessed with hugeness and thus polling strongly for Trump), Cruz campaigns hard in the Lone Star State. One such stop is a chili cookoff, which he accepts an invitation to judge despite not being much of a spicy food (or spicy anything) guy. One batch is so hot — ghost peppers, man — Cruz can’t handle it. On the stump minutes later, he begins to hallucinate. First, he sees Jesus, who slowly morphs into his childhood dog, Sprinkles. Interchanging “Jesus” and “Sprinkles” would be just fine in a swing state, but not in Texas. He tanks in the primary, and drops out within the week.
Marco Rubio. Polaroids from that 1994 Wilton Manors house party see the light of day. ’Nuff said.
Carly Fiorina. With little to show for her efforts in New Hampshire, Fiorina morphs into a raven and flies off into the moonless night, back to the place of her birth, the Forest of Deception.
Donald Trump. After gaining the GOP presidential nomination, the billionaire real estate magnate takes the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and gives a most glorious speech about America being great again soon, or whatever. “One more thing,” he says as the audience roars. “I was only joking. I have so much money. Why on earth would I want to be president?”
Chris Christie. Backstage at the RNC, the New Jersey governor is raiding the catering table. His mouth is crammed with his favorite type of sandwich (slices of ham between two jelly donuts). RNC Chair Reince Priebus runs in. “Governor, Trump said he’s out. You’re the only one left.” Christie’s eyes grow huge. “I’m it?” he asks Priebus, his mouth still full. “You’re it,” Priebus sighs.
Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders. Hillary wins the nomination, but irate Sanders supporters are able to alter space/time so that the results favor Sanders, who moves the White House to Burlington, institutes a single-payer health system and promptly retires. Vice President Bob Dylan drawls, “Do you want to make a deal?”