Perez: The Art of the Exit

by Sarah Perez | 10/29/15 7:30pm

Two weeks ago, Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Las Vegas to hash out their differences and debate the facts. The Oct. 13 debate and its aftermath, however, did little to shake up the field. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still seems to be the token nominee, despite claims that she had begun to “feel the Bern” on the campaign trail. On his end, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders seems to have conceded at the CNN-hosted debate. Sanders came to Clinton’s aid when asked about her personal emails and forfeited a great deal of leverage in doing so.

Acknowledging that it might not be “great politics,” Sanders went on to assert that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about [Clinton’s] damn emails.” Although he has persisted on the campaign trail since then, such rhetoric may suggest his stint is drawing to a close. The same has been true with other Democratic candidates. In the past two weeks following the debate, several Democrats have vacated the already-sparse political field. Former governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb withdrew their candidacy, and Vice President Joe Biden finally put rumors of a potential 2016 campaign to rest.

On the heels of Wednesday night’s GOP debate, Republicans should be hoping for a similar exodus. If the GOP intends to ring in a victory in 2016, the candidates need a reality check. Each candidate must assess their performance thus far and decide whether their campaign is still viable. It is their responsibility to act in the best interests of the party. Otherwise, they are simply taking up space and diminishing the GOP’s chances at success. Republican candidates could actually stand to learn something from a Chaffee and Webb — unite and throw your support behind a nominee, or exit stage left.

With 2016 being dubbed the year of the political outsider, the results of Wednesday’s CBS/NYT poll were generally unsurprising. Ben Carson and Donald Trump continue to lead the Republican field with Marco Rubio (R-FL) trailing in their wake. The poll marked a significant milestone for Carson, as it reported him pulling ahead of Trump — Carson is now polling at 26 percent, compared to Trump’s 22. The poll’s results, however, were far less auspicious for smaller candidates. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) received only 2 percent of votes. Likewise, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) polled at a meager 1 percent. Worse yet, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and former governor of New York, George Pataki, polled at 0 percent. Although not as dismal, the performance of other Republican candidates such as Carly Fiorina and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush also left much to be desired.

At this point, what the GOP needs is not a dose of political defeatism, but an earnest re-evaluation of its candidates. Smaller Republican candidates should not just throw in the towel, but instead, seriously consider the contribution of their campaign to the wellbeing of the party. While pontificating about the party platform may win less popular candidates some much-needed coverage, doing so detracts from the bigger picture. Time and resources allocated to the campaigns of the lesser candidates could be serving a larger purpose — a GOP victory in 2016.

The crowded Republican field should not come as a surprise. Instead, it indicates a systemic issue plaguing the GOP. The party has succumbed to extreme polarization within its ranks. Tea Party loyalists and establishment supporters are increasingly estranged, depleting the party as a whole. Most recently, such hostility was evident in the search for a new Speaker of the House after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned.

Republicans have struggled far too long in presenting the party as a united front. If success in 2016 is to remain a possibility, all within the party must address this. They must put a stop to the constant bickering, position taking and squabbling that has characterized the GOP to this point. No one expects the GOP to join hands in singing “Kumbaya” — and the good thing is, they do not have to. Republican success in 2016 will be contingent on something else entirely — the party’s ability to mobilize and support a single, strong candidate. But for this to happen, some candidates need to face the music and exit stage left.