Scott Walker Was Right & These Republicans Should Drop Out To Bring Trump Down With Them
When Scott Walker announced earlier this year that he was ending his presidential campaign, he pleaded with Republicans to join forces, and called for other GOP presidential candidates to drop out of the race in order to allow voters to consolidate behind a single candidate. Though Walker didn’t name any candidates, the speech was largely viewed as a dig at frontrunner Donald Trump, whose antics have created big divisions within the Republican Party. Since then, Walker's suggestion has appeared more and more on-point. It’s been two months since he dropped out, and Trump is still on top of the polls. It seems more and more likely that with more than 10 Republicans still in the primary race, nobody will be able to defeat Trump until there are fewer candidates. But there’s still an elephant in the room: Which Republicans should drop out?
Writing at Forbes, pollster John Zogby argues that Walker “spoke the truth” during his withdrawal speech, and attempts to answer the question which Walker himself didn’t. In Zogby’s estimation, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, and Chris Christie should all end their campaigns. That would leave Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, and, of course, Donald Trump contending for the Republican presidential nomination.
Zogby achieved some prominence a couple of years ago when he and Nate Silver became embroiled in a bitter feud over polling methodology. It was one of the few times that an argument between statisticians made headlines in the mainstream political press. It culminated in Silver calling Zogby “the worst pollster in the world.” That aside, Zogby is largely correct in this analysis. It will be very hard for any Republican other than Trump to break out of the pack with so many candidates in the race. If Republicans want Trump out, some of the other 2016 hopefuls will have to be out as well. Zogby is wrong, however, about which candidates should leave.
The big issue here is Carson. As I’ve argued before, it would most definitely hurt Trump’s chances if Carson left the race. Zogby argues that Carson “has not in any way shown any real talent as either a candidate or a leader of this nation.” Well, that's a subjective opinion that could perhaps be applied to other candidates. But more importantly, Carson is currently No. 2 in the polls, and has been for quite some time. That itself makes it pretty hard to rationalize him dropping out. At the end of the day, he has more support than almost any other candidate. And it goes without saying that Carson would laugh at the suggestion.
Similarly, it’s strange to insist, as Zogby does, that Paul and Kasich should stay in the race. He justifies this on the grounds that Kasich has a “proven track record,” while Paul “has creds among younger voters, and makes debates more lively.” This doesn’t change the fact that Kasich and Paul have a combined support of just 5 percent amongst Republicans. Plenty of candidates whom Zogby suggests should drop out — Huckabee, Pataki, and Graham, for example — also have “proven track records.” As for Paul, it’s unclear why making debates more exciting has any bearing on whether a candidate should stay in the race. By that rationale, we should be in favor of keeping Trump.
Still, Zogby’s general point is well taken. There are simply too many Republicans running for president right now, and if the other candidates want Anyone But Trump to win, some will have to pony up and withdraw. In my estimation, the only honest way to assess which candidates should and shouldn’t leave is to look at their poll standings over time. Where exactly to draw the line is difficult to say, but let’s put it at 5 percent.
If every Republican presidential contender with less than a 5 percent average in the polls dropped out, that would leave us with Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and Bush. That’s five people — a fine size for a primary, if you ask me, and the exact same number that the Democratic presidential field began at. You could also argue that Fiorina, who once topped 10 percent in national averages, should stay. This still, however, leaves the problem of Trump and Carson. Both have very solid pillars of support, and if those pillars continue to hold, the other candidates will likely remain boxed out.
At the end of the day, the question is this: Should Republicans drop out of the field because Trump must be stopped? Or should they drop out simply because the number of candidates is too unwieldy?
The answer will differ depending on who you ask. Many establishment Republicans seem to think that stopping Trump should be priority No. 1 — but that's obviously a matter of personal preference. If the real problem in the GOP primary is that there are just too many candidates to fit on a single debate stage, then the only reasonable course is for the lowest-polling candidates to take a deep breath, withdraw from the race, and allow the candidates who have some conceivable chance of winning the nomination to duke it out.