Which GOP candidate should drop out next?

The latest polling of Republican voters shows which candidates they think should throw in the towel – you may not even remember their first choice existed.

Charlie Neibergall/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore listens during a primary debate, in Des Moines, Iowa. Jan. 28, 2016.

Ted Cruz won Iowa. Donald Trump leads in New Hampshire. Marco Rubio has broken from the peloton to place third in the latest national polls.

Yes, yes, but who’s tanking? That’s our subject today. With a pause before Saturday night’s GOP debate and next Tuesday’s Granite State primary it’s time to talk about which Republican candidate may be the next to face the inevitable and drop out of the race.

YouGov released some poll results on this question today and they’re a good start for the discussion. This survey of Republican voters was taken on February 3-4, so it reflects Iowa caucus results.

The top choice is obvious, if you remember he’s still running. Fully 89 percent of YouGov respondents said that Jim Gilmore should drop out of the race. Problem is, the former Virginia governor is only mounting a low-cost, low-impact campaign, with no ads and little organization. It doesn’t cost much to walk for president, as opposed to run, so he doesn’t actually have much incentive to stop. 

“Started out as 1 of 17 GOP Candidates, now with Rand Paul & Rick Santorum out, 1 of 9,” tweeted Mr. Gilmore on February 3.

We’ll skip YouGov’s second and third-place finishers in the drop-out poll, because, well, they’ve read the numbers on the wall. As Gilmore noted, Rick Santorum (#2) and Rand Paul (#3) suspended their campaigns this week. For them, the people have spoken. Unfortunately.

Number four on this list is where it gets real. Is it time for John Kasich to quit? Seventy percent of YouGov respondents said “yes,” but that’s highly unlikely to happen before next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Mr. Kasich has put virtually all his time and money into Granite State campaigning. If he breaks double-digits in the vote there, beating Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and the rest of the establishment crowd, he might try to hang on. If his cash doesn’t run out, that is.

Perhaps surprisingly, Carly Fiorina is the crowd’s next choice for withdrawal. Sixty-eight percent of YouGov respondents said she should quit now. Her brief, debate-fueled boomlet lasted only a week or so last fall, and since then she’s languished, with her average poll numbers down at around two percent.

Fiorina speaks well, though, and the GOP elite clearly wants her around, so that the candidates aren’t all men. That could keep her in a few weeks more.

After that come Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. About 63 percent of GOP voters think the moderate East Coast governor and ex-governor should pack it in, according to the YouGov poll. At least one, and quite possibly both, of them will almost certainly quit after New Hampshire. They might even pack it in right after the New Hampshire polls close.

The only hope for Governor Christie and Mr. Bush is to break out and challenge Mr.Rubio for the coveted spot of highest-ranking finisher who isn’t a senator from Texas or a billionaire real estate developer. Bush has loads of cash, and might trudge on to South Carolina regardless; Christie doesn’t, and New Hampshire is his last and only hope.

After them there isn’t a candidate who a majority of GOP voters want gone. Ben Carson’s campaign isn’t doing well. It’s firing workers as the candidate’s numbers drop. But the retired surgeon remains popular in the party, and only 43 percent think he should quit, according to YouGov results.

And the front-runners? Twelve percent of YouGov respondents want Mr. Trump to fire himself and go back to the private sector. Six percent want Rubio and Mr. Cruz to quit. 

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