“Little” Marco Rubio finally dropped out of the Presidential race last night. His final hope of giving some air of respectability to his campaign hinged on winning Florida. He did not win Florida.
Let this be a lesson to you America: you never win with just the tip. Many thought that Marco should have gotten out while the getting was good, but like many of his fellow candidates, he stayed in long past his expiration date. Why do these candidates do this to themselves? What’s in it for them? It’s a good question with a complicated answer.
Though the math shows that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will almost certainly win their respective party’s nominations, other candidates have a variety of reasons for staying in well after they have been counted out. Let’s look at why each candidate is hanging in there, even though they’ve got nothing left to hang on to.
Despite being anointed as the golden child of the GOP and the man who could beat Trump, Rubio couldn’t make it happen. Incompetent campaign management, bad debate performances, and poor positioning as the most extreme moderate in a field full of both extremists and moderates led the nation to react poorly to his campaign.
Marco Rubio is the Tiger Woods of politics. He once looked to have a bright future in national politics and now might be better off choosing early retirement. And what’s worse is he’s from Florida, so where the hell is he going to retire to? Failing to win his home state, Marco only managed to take Minnesota, Puerto Rico, and D.C. before falling on his sword and getting that sword very sweaty in the process. Rubio’s camp has known for a while that it was all over, even going as far as to encourage his supporters in Ohio to vote for John Kasich. Here’s why he stayed in as long as he did.
The Future: As the youngest candidate in the GOP field, Rubio was always conscious of the fact that he could live to fight another day. A respectable showing would have gone a long way toward setting him up for another run four or eight years from now. Failing to win his home state will likely be remembered by party king makers down the road. No amount of water bottles can wash away the stink of failure.
Pride: Though it isn’t nearly as embarrassing as the $150 million debacle mounted by America’s favorite whipping boy Jeb Bush, the $70 million campaign waged by Rubio wasn’t chump change. Just like corporations, politicians funded by corporations need to show a return on investment. If Rubio had eked out a few states toward the end, perhaps his donors would feel like their money wasn’t completely wasted. For the record: it was completely wasted. It would have been better spent investing in a company that makes water beds.
He’s Got Nowhere Else to Go: Rubio has said that he will not seek re-election to his Florida Senate seat. Though he had claimed it was White House or bust, conventional wisdom was that winning Florida would set him up for a Governor’s race should all else fail. All else failed and more, as Rubio lost Florida, and may have done irreparable damage to his brand. Rubio knew that he needed to win Florida to have a future that didn’t involve becoming a FOX News talking head or falling off the face of the Earth and starting life again as an insurance salesman in Topeka, Kansas. If, five years from now, you’re trying to get that term life policy, and your agent drinks one bottle of water too many, look carefully because you might be looking at the guy who used to be Marco Rubio.
John Kasich is going to try to leverage his win in Ohio last night as evidence that his campaign is surging at the right time. It isn’t. Yes, he won the state where he is currently governor, so he didn’t have to immediately tuck his tail between his legs like Yung Marco. However, in other states last night he either came in last or barely edged out Rubio. Why is he still here?
Brokered Convention: Ever since Trump’s mix of idiocy and hardline fascism started winning hearts and minds, the inside beltway baseball fever dream of the GOP has been a brokered convention. The idea is that Trump is going to fall short of the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination outright (he might), and then the party picks someone else instead. The problem there is that you are basically telling the working class white Republican voters of the country to go f**k themselves if you do that. And the GOP is a party made up of white working class voters. But let’s see if we can get to the convention without Trump inciting a race war before we play out that scenario.
Home Sweet Home: Kasich’s entire campaign hinged on winning Ohio, so if he had to quit before he got there, it would have looked pretty bad. It would have been kind of like if even your girlfriend thinks maybe it’s time to put down the guitar and go back to community college. Incidentally, the demand for Kasich’s brand of compassionate conservatism is about as robust as demand for Sublime cover bands in Suburban Los Angeles. Lots of people are trying it, and not many people want to another awful rendition of “Santeria.”
He’s Cheap: Kasich looks like a guy who loves the Denny’s early bird special and it shows. His campaign has been by far the cheapest of the candidates left in the game, to the tune of $10 million. If you don’t count Trump, whose campaign is unconventional and comes with tens of millions of dollars of free media exposure, Kasich is running the cheapest GOP campaign by $40 million.
Won’t Give Up: John Kasich looks like your friend’s divorced dad, and much like Mr. Daniels won’t stop trying to win his wife back after that indiscretion with the babysitter, John Kasich isn’t going to stop peddling his brand of feel-good bullsh-t until they take him out back and put one through his graying mane.
No one can believe that Ted Cruz is the Republican Party’s best hope against Donald Trump, especially the Republican Party. This guy is so widely disliked, that he has only managed one Senate endorsement besides himself. Mike Lee of Utah is basically that one cute girl who goes to the nerdy kid’s birthday party because either she’s actually nice or her mom made her. How the Hell is Ted Cruz still in this thing?
Nobody Likes Him: You would think this would be a weakness, but in Ted’s case, it’s kind of a strength. Rubio, Jeb, and Kasich are all part of the establishment to a degree. As such, they have to listen to the RNC and play ball. Cruz already shuts down the government whenever he wants and refuses to work with his colleagues if he doesn’t feel like it. People won’t even sit at his lunch table. What does he have to lose?
#SCOTUS sources say Cruz asked to sit w Scalia clerks @ funeral. They said no. Then GOP leadership said no bc he wasn't 1 of them either.
— Nina Totenberg (@NinaTotenberg) February 24, 2016
Evangelicals Love Him: Even though his colleagues and much of America hate him, the group of people who refer to themselves as “evangelicals” and/or “real conservatives” and/or “people who only read Ayn Rand and the Bible and are way too affectionate with their daughters.” He’s so committed to his self-destructive principles that he wants to shut down the IRS. He wins states like Kansas, Idaho, and Texas, i.e. states you assume he would win, and that you assume fire teachers who don’t include intelligent design in the curriculum. As a result of this core constituency of people who yell at the TV when the girl on Big Bang Theory shows too much cleavage, he is the only candidate besides Trump who has gotten any traction.
He’s Delusional: Cruz has a track record of believing and doing insane sh-t He has a list of departments he would shut down if given the opportunity that include the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He thought reciting Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor would somehow resonate as an Obamacare parable. He also once said that we need “a hundred more Senators like Jesse Helms.” This guy is nuts.
That Cash: Cruz has one thing that Jeb, Rubio, and Kasich don’t have: cash on hand. His various SuperPACs have raised $100 million for the crazed jerk-off, and it turns out that this crazed jerk-off is very good at being thrifty. Think of him as more of a bulk vasoline guy than a fancy lubricant guy. He reportedly currently has $40 million on hand, which is more than Kasich has raised in his entire campaign. He’s got the cash and no reason not to keep spending it.
Progressives across America have felt the Bern this election season. Who knew that the most exciting candidate since Barack Obama would be a New Englander in his mid-70s? Sadly, it looks like the Bern has finally been contained. Though Bernie has done well where you would think he would do well, in places like New England, the Rust Belt, and the Midwest, he has zero chance in the South. The last time a guy had less penetration in Texas, Johnny Manziel was being kicked out of a bar in College Station for being too drunk to open his wallet. Though he has brought the fight to Hillary, the path to victory looks slimmer and slimmer every day. Why is he hanging on?
Unique Fundraising Model: Bernie will be the first to tell you that his campaign is not beholden to large corporations. In fact, he’ll tell you that about two dozen times at each campaign stop. This bears out in his fundraising model. The Sanders campaign has raised a $100 million so far, and $70 million of that money has been in small contributions. Many small contributors don’t donate at the personal limit of $2,700 and as a result, most of those donors can donate again. Sanders has $15 million on hand and a dedicated group of supporters who haven’t yet reached their maximum donation.
Policy Over Presidency: Though Bernie has insisted that he is in this campaign to win it,
many have speculated that he is just as interested in helping to shape the Democratic platform as he is in winning the Presidency. There is no denying that Bernie has forced Hillary to the left in terms of environment, economics, and health care. Sanders has been in politics a long time, and he knows that the longer he stays in the race, the better chance he has of having an impact on the platform at the convention.
Proportions: The Republicans have an number of winner take all states, in which all of the convention delegates go to the victor. The Democrats have a proportional system, awarding delegates based on percentages, regardless of who actually wins. Bernie has kept races close everywhere except for the South, and as a result, has continued to earn significant delegates in states he loses. It may be a long time before he is technically eliminated, even if there are just as few scenarios in which he comes out on top as your girlfriend when she [redacted].
One Last Ride: Famously, Bernie Sanders can’t be bought. It’s hard to find a more principled man in politics. His track record has been nothing if not consistent. Even if he wanted to be bought, it’s hard to imagine that Hillary wants an aging socialist on her ticket or that she wants someone as combative as the Vermont Senator in her cabinet. Though many progressives have been dreaming of a Joe Biden-like role for Sanders, where he runs weekly White House drum circles and appears once a month next to Larry David on SNL, it is far more likely that there is no role for Sanders in a Clinton administration. As such, the man is guaranteed to go back to Vermont where he is beloved and serve in the Senate until he feels like retiring no matter how this thing shakes out. So why not enjoy the ride while it lasts?