The sheer number of candidates running for president in 2016 has fed a theory. It basically holds that running for president is a no-lose situation in which, even if you never catch on and have little chance of winning, you can grow your profile and maybe sell a few books or earn a lucrative role as a TV pundit.

After 2008, Mike Huckabee got a Fox News Channel show. Mitt Romney became next in line. Hillary Rodham Clinton became secretary of state. Joe Biden became vice president. Fred Thompson became the world's foremost spokesman on reverse mortgages. (Okay, that last one is less convincing.)

So whenever people ask precisely why George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee are running for president, the answer becomes, "Why not?"

Because Lincoln Chafee. That's why not.

The stagnant Democratic primary campaign of the awkward former Rhode Island governor got its moment in the sun Tuesday, and its standard-bearer turned in a disastrous debate performance, complete with two horrible explanations of now-unpopular votes he had cast and (perhaps most damningly) Clinton's one-word refusal to even respond to attacks from her hapless opponent.

Suddenly, the below-the-radar candidate plucking along with a dream and a couple of bucks (quite literally) became a laughingstock.

And then, on Wednesday afternoon, Wolf Blitzer came along to steal whatever dignity a former U.S. senator and one-term governor of Rhode Island had left. After showing some of the brutal headlines aimed at Chafee's debate performance, Blitzer offered this:

"Here's what worries me, Governor: Because of your distinguished career, you're going to wind up looking silly if you keep going on like this." Blitzer then pressed Chafee on when he would give up the charade and drop out.

Even if Chafee were a gifted communicator — which Tuesday's debate showed he clearly is not — how in the world do you respond to that?