The merciless grind of the race has already worn down the GOP 2016 field from 17 to eight, and now the snowbound citizens of New Hampshire have passed their judgment on several more struggling contenders. Here are the ones most likely to decide they’ve had it.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Chris Christie put all his eggs in the New Hampshire basket, and a single digit percent appears to have crushed them. As he faced a single digit, sixth-place finish, he announced that he would return home to New Jersey to take stock of his situation. Christie has made 190 campaign stops in the Granite State, tying Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the most of any GOP candidate. Following the successful 2008 McCain model of winning New Hampshire through sheer face-time, Christie hoped his skill on the stump and constant presence would carry him into the top-tier.
But when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio surged out of Iowa with media-driven momentum, Christie chose to go on the attack. Christie mercilessly hammered Rubio on the stump as “the boy in the bubble” and thoroughly halted Rubio’s upward trajectory by calling out his robotic lines in the most recent GOP debate.
The attacks arrested Rubio’s upward rise, but did little to boost Christie. The voters who likely would have gone to a rising Rubio instead turned to Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Kasich avoided attacking his opponents altogether, allowing Christie to do the dirty work, cleaning up the scraps. Bush also benefited from voters who stepped away from Rubio but were turned off by Christie’s bombast. Bush was critical of Rubio on the trail, but allowed his Right to Rise Super PAC to do most of the heavy lifting of taking down Rubio alongside Christie.
It’s hard to see where the New Jersey governor goes from here. With just $1.1 million in the bank, Christie has the smallest war chest left in the field, and he notches a measly 2.3 percent polling average in South Carolina according to Real Clear Politics.
Excluded from the most recent debate and pulling in a dismal 4 percent, Fiorina has little credible path to victory and seemingly little reason aside from vanity to continue on in the contest.
No doubt Fiorina expects New Hampshire will further narrow the GOP field, allowing her more airtime and attention. But as the race turns into a more frantic brawl among titans with a shot at the nomination, there will be little appetite to cover candidates hoping for a dark-horse comeback.
Of the upcoming contests, none seems a natural fit for Fiorina to stage a surprise. Fiorina is starting down a 1.7 percent Real Clear Politics average in the next major primary state of South Carolina. The former Hewlett-Packard executive has $4.5 million, according to recent campaign finance reports, enough to keep the lights on but not enough to run a winning insurgency against campaigns with major resources.
Dr. Ben Carson
Carson was not expected to do well in New Hampshire. The former neurosurgeon came into primary day with a 2.8 percent polling average from Real Clear Politics and notched 1 percent in the last public poll released Monday from the American Research Group. Expectations were low, and that’s where Carson landed with 2 percent.
The mild-mannered doctor is looking to stage a comeback on the southern leg of the GOP primary contest circuit. But Carson has been trending downwards in South Carolina. He now sits at 8 percent, only good enough for fifth place, in the most recent South Carolina poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal.
Carson has campaign cash but little chance to re-establish momentum or a justification of his candidacy over a more formidable evangelical friendly candidate, most notably, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Cruz is a disciplined candidate with a hungry, top-notch campaign organization. There is little chance he will stumble enough to make room for Carson. The retired pediatric neurosurgeon will hang on at least until South Carolina, but he can begin writing now for what will surely be one of the most successful post-campaign book launches in presidential history.