And Then There Was One

A roundup of all the Republicans who wanted to be president

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Jim Gilmore, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina and George Pataki take their podiums at the beginning of a presidential forum hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The seven GOP candidates were selected to participate in the forum based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls.
Way back when there were way more candidates. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What began as a contest between 17 candidates has finally been whittled down to one. And I reprise my earlier claim that if you had told me Ohio Gov. John Kasich would be the last candidate to drop out, I would have laughed in your face.

Well, who’s laughing now? New York businessman Donald Trump, that’s who. After Mr. Trump won the Indiana primary Tuesday night, his closest rival (who was hundreds of delegates behind), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, announced he was suspending his campaign. Even though Mr. Kasich was still in the race, he had been previously eliminated mathematically since he needed more delegates to win than were actually available. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Kasich announced he was suspending his campaign, making Mr. Trump the presumptive GOP nominee (let the Speaker Paul Ryan conspiracy theories fly!).

So now that the GOP has its nominee, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how we got here, by examining all the candidates who dropped out and why they did so.

Rick Perry—Dropped out September 11, 2015

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry talks about how he supports Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) before he took to the stage during his campaign event at the Noah's Event Venue on January 27, 2016 in West Des Moines, Iowa. Cruz continues his quest to become the Republican presidential nominee.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Poor Rick Perry. He went into 2012 with strong conservative credentials but quickly flamed out after a series of weird missteps, including his infamous “oops” moment in a debate. He had a lot of embarrassment to overcome in 2016, but he couldn’t overcome it, and he became the first casualty of the election.

Scott Walker—Dropped out September 21, 2015 

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum January 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the week Walker announced the formation of "Our American Revival", a new committee designed to explore the option of a presidential bid in 2016.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mr. Walker had one of the most disappointing campaigns of 2016. He was a candidate for all of 70 days, and he entered the race as the person to beat. But his campaign quickly fizzled once Mr. Trump got into the race and the Wisconsin governor failed to adequately answer random press questions.

Bobby Jindal—Dropped out November 17, 2015

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. (Photo: Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Mr. Jindal declined to run in 2012, which probably would have been a better year for him. In 2016, he never gained real traction and was relegated to the undercard debates until he dropped out. His story and his message were pretty solid, and he was probably the best candidate when it came to the issue of Obamacare, but his campaign never really popped under the light of Mr. Trump.

Lindsey Graham—Dropped out December 21, 2015

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during the CNN republican presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the fifth set of Republican presidential debates.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

I didn’t cover the undercard debates because, seriously, none of those candidates had a chance. But if I did, each debate would include Mr. Graham’s best zingers. From occasionally self deprecatory to acerbic, he made watching the undercard debates bearable. Sadly for Mr. Graham, Americans aren’t interested in another war, so his hawkish approach to the Islamic State turned people off.

George Pataki—Dropped out December 29, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: Republican presidential candidate and former New York Governor George Pataki addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center December 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Candidates spoke and took questions from Jewish leaders and activists.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Did you remember Mr. Pataki ran for president? Neither did I, but he dropped out just before the new year. He ran an unremarkable campaign and was an unremarkable candidate.

Mike Huckabee—Dropped out February 1, 2016

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JANUARY 14: Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee participates in the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The sixth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top seven candidates, and another for three other candidates lower in the current polls.
Mike Huckabee. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mr. Huckabee dropped out after placing 9th in the Iowa caucus. Iowa should have been one of the best states for his social conservatism, but he couldn’t even come close to winning. He began his campaign on the main debate stage, but was quickly sent to the undercard debate as his poll numbers declined.

Rand Paul—Dropped out February 3, 2016

IOWA CITY, IA - JANUARY 31 : Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) stands backstage before being introduced during a campaign event at the University of Iowa Memorial Union January 31, 2016 in Iowa City, Iowa. Paul who is seeking the nomination for the Republican Party is on the presidential campaign trail across Iowa ahead of the Iowa Caucus taking place Monday, a week before the New Hampshire Primaries.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. (Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

A lot of people had high hopes for Mr. Paul, myself included. He was supposed to be able to appeal to Independents and grow the Republican Party. But after his campaign faced money problems and low polls, the staunch Libertarian dropped out. He couldn’t even do as well in Iowa as his father, Ron Paul, had in 2012.

Rick Santorum—Dropped out February 3, 2016

Rick Santorum participates in the Fox News - Google GOP Debate January 28, 2016 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Residents of Iowa will vote for the Republican nominee at the caucuses on February 1.
Rick Santorum. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mr. Santorum ran because he came in second in 2012. The Republican Party has a big problem with nominating the next in line, so Mr. Santorum seemed like an obvious choice. But in the age of the Internet and has-beens, his campaign never really took off, and he was forced to endure the undercard debate until he dropped out. He came in 11th in Iowa, behind New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Chris Christie—Dropped out February 10, 2016 

PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 01: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie accompanies Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on the stage at a press conference on March 1, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Christie stood by, often distracted, as Trump held a press conference at his Mar a Lago Club after the polls closed on Super Tuesday.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accompanies Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

It was my elderly horse’s birthday, and I was visiting her when I got the news about Mr. Christie. I believe my reaction was: “About time.” This for the man I helped pass out literature for in 2009 (before I settled on commentary/journalism as a career). Mr. Christie never had a place in the GOP primary once Mr. Trump entered the race. Mr. Christie was supposed to be the brash, tell-it-like-it-is Northeasterner, but Mr. Trump quickly claimed that title and then some, overshadowing Mr. Christie. The New Jersey governor has since endorsed and campaigned with Mr. Trump, so maybe he’ll get a job in the mogul’s Cabinet.

Carly Fiorina—Dropped out February 10, 2016

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 15: Carly Fiorina speaks at a watch party for Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on March 15, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Cruz is in a tight race with Donald Trump in the Missouri GOP primary, while Trump took Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois. Gov. John Kasich won his home state of Ohio.
Carly Fiorina. (Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Ms. Fiorina was the only female candidate among 16 men, and she held her own. She blew away her competition in her first undercard debate and earned a place in the main debate. She then needled Mr. Trump over his comments about her face and proved why she belonged on the main stage. But her campaign failed to capitalize on her newfound popularity, and her poll numbers quickly dropped until she was back in the undercard debate. She later endorsed Mr. Cruz and was announced as his vice presidential pick if he were to win the nomination (which he didn’t).

Jim Gilmore—Dropped out February 12, 2016

DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 24: Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on January 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The summit is hosting a group of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates to discuss core conservative principles ahead of the January 2016 Iowa Caucuses.
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mr. Gilmore, the man who couldn’t even qualify to be in all the undercard debates, outlasted nine well-known candidates (and George Pataki). He may have been a likeable guy, but the former Virginia governor hadn’t been in a major office since 2002. People had forgotten he existed. In New Hampshire, Mr. Gilmore got fewer votes than “other.”

Jeb Bush—Dropped out February 20, 2016

GREENVILLE, SC - FEBRUARY 19, 2016: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush addresses the crowd at a campaign rally February 19, 2016 in Greenville, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary will be held Saturday, February 20.
Jeb Bush. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Mr. Bush also entered the race with high expectations that quickly fell flat. By the time he dropped out, he had run one of the saddest campaigns in recent history. Beyond the campaign’s money problems, Mr. Bush couldn’t connect to an audience. He tried to be funny but it didn’t work. He tried to go after Mr. Trump but it didn’t work. He was just… uninteresting.

Ben Carson—Dropped out March 4, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during CPAC 2016 March 5, 2016 in National Harbor, Maryland. Carson said he is dropping out of the presidential race.
Ben Carson. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mr. Carson got into the race and almost immediately began saying one dumb thing after another. I was previously a fan of his, but after watching him say weird things about the pyramids and appear half sedated at the debates, my image of him was tarnished. He was able to raise a ton of cash, and his outsider, nice-guy persona took him quite far, but he could never be the nominee when it appeared he didn’t know anything about any subject.

Marco Rubio—Dropped out March 15, 2016

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As Mr. Bush began to flail, Mr. Rubio emerged as the best hope for the Republican Party (to some). He was young, attractive, articulate, charming, Hispanic and his ideology fell somewhere between Establishment and conservative. Yet somehow he couldn’t convince voters that he was their guy. After failing to win his home state of Florida, he suspended his campaign.

Ted Cruz—Dropped out May 3, 2016

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Mr. Cruz had the best ground game of any candidate in the race. He entered the presidential election prepared to do whatever it took to win, but he couldn’t pull it off against an opponent like Mr. Trump. Mr. Cruz went from being despised by the Republican Establishment to somehow being associated with it. It’s like everyone forgot he was behind the government shutdown. Indiana was seen as his last stand, and he couldn’t pull it off. Of course, he had no hope of securing the nomination before that, but his continued presence in the race was thought to give Republicans a chance at a contested convention that would stop Mr. Trump.

That didn’t work out so well.

John Kasich—Dropped out May 4, 2016

ROCKVILLE, MD - APRIL 25: Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks during a campaign event April 25, 2016 in Rockville, Maryland. Governor Kasich continued to seek for his party??s nomination for the general election.
Ohio Governor John Kasich. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mr. Kasich did so poorly that he had fewer delegates than Mr. Rubio even a month after the Florida senator dropped out. His strategy seemed to amount to staying in the race and hoping everyone else dropped out. He even stayed in long after it was clear he couldn’t possibly secure the nomination by winning delegates. It was like the tortoise and the hare, if the tortoise sat around hoping a meteor would take out the hare.

And that just leaves…. Mr. Trump.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump speaks to supporters and the media at Trump Tower in Manhattan following his victory in the Indiana primary on May 03, 2016 in New York, New York. Trump beat rival Ted Cruz decisively in a contest that many analysts believe was the last chance for any other Republican candidate to catch Trump in the delegate count.
The last man standing. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media. And Then There Was One