The Iowa caucuses are now behind us, and as the endless presidential campaign rolls on to New Hampshire, we all get to play that much-beloved game: Give It Up Already!
It’s easy to play. You just stare at the lowest-polling candidates’ numbers, shake your head, and wonder what in God’s name any of these people gain by slogging through more long days of shaking the hands of every person in New Hampshire at the height of flu season, and more long nights roughing up their skin against the starchy sheets of a Holiday Inn Express. Then you remember that they are politicians running for president, so by definition they are literally insane. Then you drink something.
But in the interests of squeezing a few last laughs out of some of these characters before they return to their mansions and wait for Roger Ailes to call, let’s look at four of the lowest-polling Republican candidates and evaluate where it all went wrong.
There were actually a few bright spots for Santorum this time around after the heartbreak of finishing a distant second to Mitt Romney in the 2012 primary. For one, the joke about his Google problem was played out enough that hardly anyone mentioned it. He never polled high enough to make it out of the so-called “undercard” debates, so fewer people saw him ranting against gay marriage like one of those Japanese soldiers still living on an isolated Pacific island in the 1970s because they didn’t know World War II was over. He didn’t insult the very boring by saying he opposes welfare for “blah people.” So there's that.
He also visited so many Pizza Ranch restaurants in Iowa that the company made him an honorary employee. Which is good, he might need a career fallback now that his political future is dead. Unless that movie studio really takes off.
The negatives? The inability to be competitive this time around has been an obvious blow to his ego, to the point where MSNBC dubbed him 2016’s “saddest candidate.” (Please note that I’m referring to the sadness of Santorum and his three supporters, so please refrain from tweeting your schadenfreude at me.) And as a relatively young man, he still has to face decades of being Rick Santorum.
Remember when Fiorina was a thing? What a fall. It’s actually hard to say what caused it. Sure, she’s an unlikeable, demagogic, smarmy, haughty, mendacious bag of complete and utter failure, but… sorry, where was I going with this?
Oh right: But those are positive traits in a Republican primary!
Fiorina’s credentials for the presidency were always, well, non-existent. Even without standing next to Donald Trump, who is such a bullshitter that future generations will write folk songs about his skill at it, Fiorina's business career, which she seemed to think was her calling card, was the garbage fire of CEO tenures. Once she started getting some traction in the campaign after a solid performance in the first undercard debate, former Hewlett-Packard employees couldn’t run to the press fast enough to badmouth her. And even conservatives, despite their regular paeans to business, don’t want to hear someone brag about a record that includes firing 30,000 American workers.
Fiorina will likely struggle on as long as she can in the hope of landing a Cabinet spot if a Republican wins in November. If she had any pride she wouldn’t, but again, she’s Carly Fiorina.
The former Virginia governor is still running — even after earning 0.0 percent of the vote last night — and it is adorable. Seriously, when you’re reduced to telling reporters you hope you get even one vote in Iowa, it’s time to rethink how you’re spending your time.
I can’t find any record of Gilmore saying anything completely unhinged – or much of anything, really – over the last few months of the campaign. He never suggested he would spend his first day in office chaining cinder blocks to Vladimir Putin’s ankles and tossing him in the Potomac, or ordering the military to line up on the Texas border and shoot every migrant it sees — so of course none of the media or the voters paid any attention to him.
Maybe Gilmore is just a decent human being. Unfortunately, our presidential elections don’t reward decency.
Unlike the aforementioned candidates, Huckabee actually did drop out of the race last night, after receiving just 2 percent of the vote in Iowa. But because he's been such a fixture of the Republican primary scene in the past, it's worth taking a moment to look back at his comically odious legacy.
To be honest, it's hard to find any positives here, mostly because Huckabee is such a slavering, God-bothering, self-righteous, scam-hawking dick that I don’t really want to. Even if I felt more generous, what is there to say about this guy? He plays a mean bass? Great, he and Martin O’Malley can form a band now that their campaigns are over.
It is a little bit of a surprise that it’s ending for Huckabee this way, wheezing and sputtering like an ’84 Nissan with a bad alternator. He won the 2008 Iowa caucus and was semi-competitive for the first couple of months of primary voting, only dropping out when he realized that the Texas primary would put John McCain over the top. In 2012, despite some very early polls showing him near the top of the list as a choice for the party faithful, he chose not to run. (To be fair, Herman Cain also briefly led the polls in 2012, because Republican primary voters are weird.) As Chris Christie is also learning after passing up a 2012 run, when deciding to run for president you need to strike while the iron is hot.