The field of 2016 GOP presidential candidates just got a little bit smaller. George Pataki is dropping out of the race, abandoning months of troubled campaigning and lackluster poll numbers. Pataki, who has spent the past five Republican debates battling it out in the undercard forums ahead of each main event, has been polling at the back of the field since announcing his candidacy in late May. Just this past November, Pataki and fellow dropout Lindsey Graham's numbers were low enough that they were excluded from the shortlist of candidates invited to the Fox Business/WSJ debate. Update: At 9 p.m. EST, Pataki confirmed on NBC that he is dropping out of the race. "Ultimately, the campaign decided we didn't have the resources to continue effectively," Pataki's communications director told CNN Money. Pataki took advantage of NBC's "equal time" that he was awarded after Donald Trump's Saturday Night Live stint to announce the suspension of his campaign. After the video aired, he also Tweeted the announcement.
On Tuesday, Boston Globe reporter James Pindell took to Twitter to announce the news, noting that Pataki had spent the day notifying his donors and supporters first. "Scoop: @GovernorPataki is calling his NH supporters this afternoon telling him he will drop his bid for president," he wrote.
Although the report was sudden, it wasn't wholly unexpected. For months now, political analysts and campaign experts have been predicting Pataki's demise. Bloomberg Politics' Laurence Arnold joked in a Nov. 2 column, "Error 404: Campaign not found." Fox News Sunday's John Roberts pointedly wondered that same week why Pataki was still spending money on what was clearly a dying campaign. "Why are you still in this?" he asked. "You are at zero percent in the polls in every early state, you've been in this for five months. The numbers have not moved for you."
Tuesday's announcement settled that question once and for all. NBC Politics Alexandra Jaffe reported late in the day that Ben Gamache, a member of Pataki's New Hampshire steering committee, had received the news just that morning. A Boston Globe report quoted two dedicated Pataki supporters as saying that they "weren’t surprised" but were "disappointed to hear the news," considering Pataki's most recent visit to the swing state on Dec. 4. The Globe also said that poor fundraising had broken Pataki's struggling campaign once and for all.
However, all things considered, there were more forces at work than just shoddy fundraising and low poll numbers. As The Washington Post's Amber Phillips pointed out in May, Pataki himself was likable enough, and of the wide Republican field, he had the best electoral resume — he was a moderate who had won against a popular liberal candidate, and could proudly state that he was essentially a "Washington outsider," something that all the other candidates seemed to grasp at desperately. In any other election, Pataki would have been able to garner at least a small portion of the prospective vote.
However, in a field full of bombastic, sensationalist, and far-right candidates like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson, all of whom have at some point in the past year commandeered headlines for themselves, Pataki's run was unsurprisingly shoved aside and forgotten. He wasn't willing to up his rhetoric the same way his more divisive colleagues were, and that spelled disaster from the start.
"We need to recapture that spirit, that sense that we are one people," Pataki said in his campaign kickoff announcement in May. "When we do, we will stop empowering politicians and empower ourselves with the opportunities to have an unlimited, bright future." For the time being, it seems Pataki's Utopian future will have to wait.