There's losing. There's losing honorably. And then there's John Edwards.
Mike Huckabee is not going to be president. The loss in South Carolina, one of the most highly evangelical states in the union, made that plain. With a ceiling of 14 percent among nonevangelical Republicans, Huckabee's base is simply too narrow. But his was not a rise and then a fall. He came from nowhere to establish himself as the voice of an important national constituency. Huckabee will continue to matter, and he might even carry enough remaining Southern states to wield considerable influence at a fractured Republican convention.
Fred Thompson will also not be president. His campaign failed, but quite honorably. He never tacked. He never dissimulated. He refused to reinvent himself. He presented himself plainly and honestly. Too plainly. What he lacked was the ferocious, near-deranged ambition (a.k.a., fire in the belly) required to navigate the bizarre ordeal that is today's nominating process. Political decency is not a common commodity. Thompson had it. He'd make a fine attorney general, and not just on TV.
Then there is John Edwards. He's not going to be president, either. He stays in the race because, with the Democrats' proportional representation system, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton might end up in a very close delegate race -- perhaps allowing an also-ran with, say, 10 percent of the delegates to act as kingmaker at the convention.
It's a prize of sorts; it might even be tradeable for a Cabinet position. But at considerable cost. His campaign has been a spectacle.
Edwards has made much of his renunciation of his Iraq war vote. But he has not stopped there. His entire campaign has been an orgy of regret and renunciation:
¿ As senator, he voted in 2001 for a bankruptcy bill that he now denounces.
¿ As senator, he voted for storing nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain. Twice. He is now fiercely opposed.
¿ As senator, he voted for the Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind education reform. He now campaigns against it, promising to have it "radically overhauled."