Being a Christian candidate for president means far more than advocating for life, religious liberty, and the family. It means far more than sharing your faith on campaign stops and calling on Americans to welcome God into the public square. And it means far more than doling out hugs and the vaguest inspirational bromides as you go. It means being humble and self-aware enough to know when your own vanity is hurting the country.
Two of the GOP’s most overtly Christian candidates — John Kasich and Ben Carson — are failing that test, sublimating the good of the party and potentially the nation to their own egos.
Let’s review some brutal facts. After three contests, Kasich has a grand total of five delegates. Ben Carson has three. The best showing either candidate has mustered is Kasich’s 15.8 percent in New Hampshire, where he lost to Donald Trump by 20 points despite a massive investment of time and campaign resources. Carson is yet to get even a 10-percent share of the vote in any primary.
The polls suggest neither man will do any better in the weeks ahead. Kasich is trailing behind Trump even in his home state of Ohio, and Carson doesn’t register higher than 10 percent in any recently released poll. The relentless logic of electoral momentum and delegate math spells their doom. Rationally, neither man could argue he has a chance at the nomination.
Yet both Kasich and Carson persist, running campaigns that aren’t just hopeless but destructive. Though they can’t win the nomination, they are collectively polling well enough to split the anti-Trump vote, denying Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz enough support to seriously challenge the race’s appalling front-runner.
And here’s the ultimate irony — these pro-life Christian candidates can do nothing by staying in the race except help a biblically illiterate, thrice-divorced, proud philanderer hurtle ever closer to the nomination. Every vote they take from Cruz or Rubio is a vote toward embracing Planned Parenthood and cozying up to Vladimir Putin. It’s a vote away from sensible judicial nominations or a rational foreign policy. And it’s a vote toward the potential destruction of a Republican Party that — for all its faults — is America’s last political hope of protecting life, religious liberty, and national security.
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I’ve never met a politician who wasn’t optimistic about his own political talents and prospects. Who but an optimist would willingly submit to the rigors of a campaign? Indeed, many successful politicians can tell personal stories of incredible comeback victories. But there’s a difference between optimism and delusion. It is fundamentally wrong to pursue your 1-percent chance at a miracle when there’s a 99 percent chance you will harm the very causes you claim to love.
#related#As the race goes on, my respect for Scott Walker and Jeb Bush grows. Both men had plausible paths to the Oval Office. Both are immensely accomplished public servants with solid conservative records. Both were once favorites to win the nomination. But they both had the integrity and foresight to bow out the instant it was clear they’d missed their chance. They didn’t wait until it was mathematically impossible to win, staying in the race long enough to materially impact its outcome. They let their dreams die.
Kasich and Carson should learn from their example. There is no book deal, Fox News contract, or e-mail list that is worth the damage they could inflict on the conservative movement — and, ultimately, on the country. It’s time for these Christian candidates to deny self, admit defeat, and leave the race.
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.