The Corner

Politics & Policy

How Long Should Christie, Fiorina, and Carson Stick Around?

What’s the plan for those GOP candidates far behind?

Today Chris Christie returns to New Jersey; he pointed out last night that he and his campaign need to “see what the final results are tonight — ’cause that matters — whether we’re sixth or fifth.”

If Christie is fifth, he will qualify for the ninth GOP debate airing Saturday on CBS. If he’s sixth, he won’t. Right now he’s more than 8,000 votes behind Rubio in sixth place.

Polling in South Carolina has been sparse – only three polls in 2016 so far – but the outlook doesn’t look too good for Christie or anyone behind him in New Hampshire. Christie is at 2.3 percent in the Palmetto State, according to the RealClearPolitics average. He’s at 3 percent in Florida. He’s at 2.5 percent nationally.

Carly Fiorina is currently at 4.2 percent in New Hampshire, with 92 percent of the precincts reporting. She’s been a polished candidate and strong debater. But while voters can like more than one candidate in a debate, they can only cast a vote for one candidate.

Fiorina had just under 2 percent in Iowa, winning one delegate. (She can at least boast she won more votes than past caucus winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.) She’s at 1.7 percent in South Carolina, 2.3 percent in Florida, 2.5 percent nationally. Where does she go from here? What state could possibly catapult her to the top tier? When people who finished with more votes than you are quitting because of lack of support, how do you justify staying in?

At one point, Ben Carson had as much claim to be the GOP frontrunner as Donald Trump. He finished with 9.3 percent in Iowa, a state he once led; he’ll surely say it was the Cruz campaign’s (deliberate?) misinterpretation of a CNN report that cost him a great deal of support on caucus night. (Carson finished ahead of his final polling average.) New Hampshire was never going to be his best state, but last night’s eighth-place finish of 2.3 percent was closer to Rand Paul — who dropped out of the race – than the seventh-place finish of Fiorina.

Carson still has a decent level of support in South Carolina – 8.7 percent – and his numbers elsewhere look good if you compare them to Christie and Fiorina: 5 percent in Florida, 7.8 percent nationally. But the past few months have been rough on Carson’s bid, and if he can’t break into double digits in the Palmetto State, you have to wonder where the outlook improves for him. As the race goes on, primary voters tend to cluster around the front-runners. Comebacks are hard in presidential politics. 

UPDATE: And here’s Christie’s decision:

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