By Zach Toillion
The question “Who will drop out?” is usually one of the biggest questions that comes after the Iowa caucuses. Throughout 2015, most have expected a slew of candidates to have dropped out from the crowded 20+ candidate field. An the Republican side, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Gov. Bobby Jindal (L.A.), Gov. George Pataki (N.Y.), Gov. Rick Perry (Tex.), and Gov. Scott Walker (Wisc.) At the time each candidate was polling in the low single digits. The same was true with the Democrats, who saw Sen. Jim Webb (Va.), and Gov. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) both withdraw shortly after the first Presidential debate.
The candidates who have the most at stake in Iowa are the candidates catering to the evangelical base that is prominent in the state. The two who have most consistently catered to this group of voters are Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), both former winners of the Iowa caucuses in 2012 and 2008 respectively. Both have been polling in the low single digits throughout the campaign and have been relegated to the “Undercard debates” where the lower polling candidates all compete on the same stage. Both Huckabee and Santorum have campaigned in Iowa almost exclusively throughout this Presidential cycle and would see little reason to continue to New Hampshire, where they both fare worse. Carly Fiorina (Ca.) and Rand Paul (Kt.) would also be inclined after either Iowa or New Hampshire to drop out with poll numbers in the low single digits despite laser like focus on the first two early voting dates. Rand Paul has come under increased pressure to drop out since his Senate seat has received a challenger widely viewed as competitive in Kentucky. If each one of these candidates dropped out, there would still be a seven person field heading into South Carolina.
However, more could potentially drop out after New Hampshire. In the Granite state there is a a very close election for second place. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Chris Christie (N.J), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Jeb Bush (Fla.), and John Kasich (Oh.) are all within the margin of error for second place. If any of them were to under perform there would be a lot of pressure on them to drop out by South Carolina. Exceptions to this rule would probably be Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio who are thought to have established more robust national campaigns.
On the Democratic side, distant third place Gov. Martin O’Malley (Md.) hasn’t shown any sign of dropping out despite poll numbers that have been stagnant for months. It appears we won’t see a presidential field of less than a dozen until at least after the New Hampshire primary.