GOP Presidential Field May Not Top 20!

I don’t know what sort of blandishments and threats are being deployed at this point, but perhaps you can guess from the statement of this, the second GOP proto-candidate for president to withdraw from the contest this month so far (per AP’s Steve Peoples):

John Bolton, one of the Republican Party’s most prominent national security hawks, has decided not to run for president.

Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, bowed out of the 2016 contest on Thursday, saying in a video obtained by The Associated Press that he would prefer to influence the election from the sidelines.

“I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for president,” Bolton says in the video, which was to be made public later Thursday. “I believe I can make the strongest contribution to our future by continuing as a clear and consistent advocate for a strong, Reaganite foreign policy that values peace through strength.”

I think that means “I’ll be coming to a Fox News studio and bookstore close to you directly.”

Still, it’s a bit surprising. The last pol to decide against the race, Rick Snyder, had a reasonably important day job as governor of Michigan. Bolton? Not so much. But he wasn’t bringing anything terribly unique to the table, was he, now that the whole hep Republican world (with the occasional exception of Rand Paul) is rattling sabers at the Middle East and Russia and China with every other breath? Perhaps he’s decided saying positive things about everybody with half a chance of winning from the safety of a Fox studio is a better path to becoming Secretary of State than spending the next nine months doing the Pizza Ranch tour in Iowa before dropping out after winning 1% of the vote there. Plus the possibility of being excluded from the debates had to rob a candidacy of much of its value for a guy who likes the sound of his own voice.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here, but I used to do radio now and then with Bolton back in the day, in the late 1990s-early 2000s, on one of those syndicated shows that beamed the wisdom of Washington pundits to sleepy rural listeners of very small stations at very odd hours. I found him to be quite charming when off-air, but an entirely disciplined partisan warrior when the light came on. That’s why it didn’t surprise me in December 2000 to see him in the very front of the peanut gallery at the very first judicial hearing in Florida. So now maybe Bolton’s just taking one for the team.

So, political animals: what’s your guess for the next GOP candidate to fold the tent? Let us know in the comment thread.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.