Can A Candidate Who Dropped Out Re-Enter The Presidential Race? It Depends On One Little Thing

The Republican primary race has been a bloody battlefield for more than a dozen candidates' campaigns. Some of them crashed and burned early, while others dragged themselves limping along the campaign trail into May. Only one candidate remains, and that's Donald Trump. Is it sure to stay that way, or can a candidate re-enter the race after dropping out?

First, a bit of semantics. Candidates don't generally drop out of races, as in officially end their campaigns; they suspend their campaigns. Suspending a campaign rather than dropping out is an important distinction in a few ways. As the word "suspend" suggests, Republican hopefuls whose hopes were dashed have just been putting their campaigns on hold rather than flushing them down the tubes. Of course, that doesn't mean anybody's likely to re-enter the race even though they can.

However, Sen. Ted Cruz did float the idea of re-entering during an interview with Glenn Beck on Tuesday; the senator suspended his campaign after a disappointing loss in Indiana on May 3. Cruz told Beck that he'd consider doing so "if there is a path to victory," indicating the possibility of winning the Nebraska primary on May 10 despite not being actively in the race anymore, The New York Times reported. Not the most likely scenario, but in many respects, the course of this Republican primary season has been one big actualized unlikely scenario.

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There are a couple other important implications of suspending a campaign rather than dropping out, CNN reported. First, a candidate with a suspended campaign can usually hang on to some of his or her delegates. What happens to suspended campaign delegates is determined by states, which have different rules for this. Some require a candidate to expressly release his or her delegates, others unbind them, some re-allocate them proportionally, and still others keep them bound to the suspended candidate. Generally, a candidate who suspends rather than quits can keep more delegates.

Second, CNN reported that candidates who end their campaigns are only allowed to continue fundraising for the purpose of paying off campaign trail debts. If a candidate suspends the campaign instead, he or she may continue to raise and spend money beyond that purpose.

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Even if Cruz won Nebraska on Tuesday, it wouldn't exactly give him a viable "path to victory," given that he couldn't possibly earn enough pledged delegates in the remaining races to win the primaries, and that Trump is extremely close to earning the magic number of 1,237. Though Cruz could re-enter the race, based on his own criterion for doing so, we shouldn't place any bets on it happening.