The dust has settled in the Palmetto State and the pundits are trying to understand it. Having been twice a candidate and also having been in the pundit chair (the easiest job on earth — talking about what other people are actually doing), here is what I believe we can glean from the South Carolina results (and I am not, have not, and don’t plan to endorse a candidate in the near future):
• Evangelical “leaders” aren’t. When a number of high-profile leaders of Christian organizations endorsed Ted Cruz, it was supposed to signal that there was a “coalescing” around Mr. Cruz among the churchgoing evangelicals. Supporters of Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and me were told that their votes were being “wasted” and they should get on the train for Ted. But the people in the pews had a mind of their own and voted all over the board, and in South Carolina, where evangelicals make up 74 percent of the vote (more than Iowa and far more than New Hampshire), it was Donald Trump who won them. Why? For that, we turn to observation No. 2:
• This is a disruptive election. It’s not just that a totally non-traditional candidate won in South Carolina, but both parties are being rocked by those who don’t fit the normal “mold” for candidates. Americans know that their institutions have failed them, and they are willing to take a chance on someone with little or no experience in governing because they are convinced that it’s the experienced politicians who have cost them their jobs, their hopes and their dreams. They don’t distinguish between those who governed effectively at the local or state level and those who govern in the cesspool of the Washington-Wall Street Axis of Power (how well I know).
• Those who call for candidates to “get out” need to shut up. It’s an election, not a selection by a snobby group of smug “professionals.” In Iowa, supporters of Mr. Cruz urged the supporters of Dr. Carson, Mr. Santorum and me to not “waste their votes” on us. Some commentators actually said we were being “selfish” for running and should get out in order to move votes toward the candidate that the commentator was favoring. What stunning arrogance.
I had an answer to some reporters who asked me, “Why don’t you get out?” I asked one from MSNBC, “Isn’t your network in a distant third position among cable news networks? Then why do you keep broadcasting? Why don’t you ‘get out’ and make room for the ones who have more viewers?” I said this to the anchorette on air, and she immediately ended the interview and went to break.
Most of the pompous pop-offs who call for candidates to get out have never been on the ballot. They speak from the press box, not from the arena floor and have no idea what it’s actually like to run for office and even less to govern.
So a little insight: It’s harder to get out than to get in because you have people who have invested their time, their money, and their sweat and reputations to help you. You want to give them your best and leave it all on the turf for them. You didn’t get in because of your cheap critics, and you sure as heck won’t get out because of their self-serving advice. If Ben Carson is compelled to stay in, then that is a decision for Ben Carson and his supporters to make — not his opponents. And if we are going to urge people out based on the past, then Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich need to go as well because Mr. Cruz is where I was — I won Iowa, but lost in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Mr. Kasich and Mr. Rubio have yet to win. So are supporters of Messrs. Rubio, Cruz and Kasich also calling for them to get out?
• Donald Trump’s candidacy is no fluke. And it’s rarely mentioned but one of the reasons that he is a force is that he and Dr. Carson are the only GOP candidates left who aren’t funded by the same corporatists-globalists-special interests that fund candidates from both parties (Bernie Sanders is the exception on the Democratic side). Many voters are finally understanding that the three magic words in politics are these: Follow the money. The reason things don’t change regardless of who is in power, regardless of the speeches, ads and promises is because candidates are funded by the same bunch of Wall Street big banks, hedge fund managers, and special interests. Mr. Trump is paying for his own campaign and voters are encouraged that no one will own him.
Let me repeat that I’m not endorsing anyone yet — I want to be able to speak freely and objectively about the race, and once an endorsement is made, there is nothing left to say.
• Mike Huckabee is a former 2016 Republican candidate for president and governor of Arkansas.