And then there was one.
Well, sort of. Ron Paul being Ron Paul, his announcement Monday was not your typical campaign suspension. Rather, Paul said he would no longer be spending money on upcoming GOP primaries but still plans to continue seeking delegates at state-level party conventions. As he wrote in a message to supporters, Paul will “continue to take leadership positions, win delegates, and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that Liberty is the way of the future.”
If you’re like many people, you may have forgotten that Paul was still in the race. Like Gingrich before him, Paul kept campaigning far beyond the time when it became abundantly clear Mitt Romney had the race all but tied up. Both men stayed in the fight longer than expected, despite having won just two contests and some 200 or so delegates between them.
But while they both showed plenty of grit by staying in the race, their campaigns also illustrate the fine line between perseverance and stubbornness; principle and visions of grandeur. Consider, for example, how the two campaigns came to an end, or at least an effective-if-unofficial one for the 2012 nod. Paul’s statement encouraged his supporters to continue to “remain deeply involved – become delegates, win office, and take leadership positions. I will be right there with you.” He made it clear that he is running not just for a seat of power, but for the principles which he and his many enthusiastic supporters believe in.
Gingrich’s official end to his campaign, meanwhile, came nearly a week after he made the initial announcement. Waiting would give his staff and family several days to travel to be by his side for the requisite end-of-the-campaign speech and photo opp, and would give Gingrich a few more days to say “bye-bye” to the glory of being a presidential candidate. In his farewell speech, he thanked supporters, but spoke little of what he saw as their future in the party. Rather, he went on about what he and Callista would do as they remained “active citizens,” helping to work on everything from health care and national security to fixing Congress and promoting brain science.
I’ve often wondered why presidential candidates stay in the race long after they have any shot at all of winning. Surely, there is plenty of hubris, and the trappings of a presidential campaign in which candidates are surrounded by enthusiastic supporters (not to mention Secret Service agents) who make them feel important and powerful. That’s hard for anyone to let go of, much less those with outsized egos. But on the other end of the extreme, there is principle, and the belief that continuing to fight will give voice to issues that might recede into the background unless you keep hammering them home (ending the Fed; moon colonies).
Anyone who takes up the race for this country’s highest office has plenty of ambition, even a certain amount of grandiosity, though some exhibit it far more than others. And anyone who joins that race and quickly finds himself or herself at the back of the pack surely has to believe what they’re doing matters, otherwise they wouldn’t stay in. Stubbornness is a skill needed in any politician, but as Paul and Gingrich show, there is also a fine line between tenacity and audacity.
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