- - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Anyone who follows the sport of boxing has witnessed a fight where a boxer is hit hard, where he is “knocked out on his feet.” The fighter continues to fight though he is clearly out of it. His pride makes him continue to absorb punishment. He helps no one, has no chance to win and runs the risk of permanent injury. The people around the fighter are expected to tell him between rounds that it is time to quit. If necessary they may need to throw in the towel, an act intended to stop the fight.

Sometimes the people who work for the fighter are so caught up in the moment they don’t see how damaged their man is. Sometimes they are too scared to speak up. Either way, the combination of his pride and their inability to stop the fight usually ends up ugly.

In the GOP race for the 2016 presidential nomination there are a number of combatants that are clearly out of the fight. With the second debate, current financial reporting and daily polls demonstrating clearly who has no shot, someone in their corner needs to step up.

There are the obvious cases. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has nearly no name recognition among voters. He never stood a chance. Former Sen. Rick Santorum hoped to capitalize on what he referred to as his second-place finish last time around, but has raised little money and even less attention. South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham should be embarrassed. In his own home state of South Carolina he only gets 3 percent support for president. If there was ever a clear sign it was time to hang it up, that should be it.

There are others who have obvious signs as well. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has all the makings of a great president. Successful governor, gifted orator, strong conservative credentials … and yet he can’t break the 1 percent mark. No money, no support, no traction. No reason to continue your campaign.

For George Pataki, former governor of New York, one wonders why he got in at all. He entered late and will exit early.

All of the above names were relegated to the “JV” debates and all have no shot whatsoever at the nomination. There are some in the debate main event too however, that don’t seem to be aware their campaign is over.

First among them is Sen. Rand Paul. Extremely intelligent and strong on conservative issues, Mr. Paul is lacking in the warm fuzzy category. Never underestimate the importance of being likable. The Rand Paul who appears annoyed with the media and that looked angry in the first debate hasn’t proven to be likable to the American public. His poll numbers are down as is staff morale. They seem to know, though no one is saying it, but Mr. Paul’s attention should be spent on getting re-elected to the Senate from Kentucky. He’s needed there.

There are a couple candidates that aren’t completely out yet, but if the public is underwhelmed by their second debate performance, they will be. Those include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Mr. Walker jumped to the lead in the polls when he announced, but has steadily been in decline since. The reality of politics is that if you’re 10th in the polls you can’t raise money, and with no money, you are unlikely to run an effective campaign. You can’t pay staff, pay for travel or buy advertising. If the public doesn’t think Walker’s second debate performance was a home run, he is all done.

The bottom line is this: The GOP has a deep bench in 2016, but political reality is that it’s time to start winnowing the field. Rick Perry is already out and is likely to be joined on the sidelines by at least half a dozen more in the next 10 days. If the struggling candidates don’t already know that, hopefully their staff will speak up and let them know it’s time to throw in the towel.

When the field narrows, there will be a better opportunity for those still standing to make the case why he or she is the best candidate. With voters unhappy with the status quo that could prove to be very interesting.

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