And then there were .... ?

The presidential candidate field continues to narrow, with Gov. Bill Richardson the latest to drop out, following his dismal showing in NH this week. Sens. Dodd and Biden had dropped out the previous week, after generating poor results in the Iowa Caucuses.

The presidential candidate field continues to narrow, with Gov. Bill Richardson the latest to drop out, following his dismal showing in NH this week. Sens. Dodd and Biden had dropped out the previous week, after generating poor results in the Iowa Caucuses.

In his e-mail message to supporters announcing his withdrawal from the race, Richardson had some nice words to say about nearly all the other candidates in the Democratic primary, including Dennis Kucinich, the target of considerable mocking in the media for his acknowledged sighting (while staying at Shirley MacLaine's house) of a UFO many years back. But Richardson made no mention of Mike Gravel, the bizarre former senator of Alaska.

Indeed, Gravel seems not to have attracted as much attention as he deserves. He has generally come off much stranger sounding in debates and other public appearances than Kucinich, entertainingly criticizing his fellow Democrats, the Bush administration, and pretty much anything else that comes into his head. Sort of like a court jester, he can say whatever he wants because he has no chance of winning.

What of other potential drop-outs? A public affairs exec who backs Barack Obama told me that while the Democratic race appears now to be a solid two-person contest between Clinton and Obama, John Edwards, for example, could well be true to his word that he sticks it out until the convention. of course that could change were a clear front-runner to emerge, but the general feeling among Democratic party supporters seems to be that his campaign themes continue to add intellectual dimension to the race without bruising his rivals' reputations, as more negative campaigns might.

On the Republican side, with the race far more splintered, there appears to be no consensus about who might drop out next, or prevail for that matter. One Republican public affairs exec speculated that Romney, not least because of his fundraising prowess, might still be a good bet to win even though he lagged in both the Iowa and NH results.

Even Giuliani's claimed strategy of focusing on Florida and other Super Tuesday primary states could possibly pan out, depending on how things go in Nevada and SC for some of his competitors, noted the Obama supporter, who said the Republican race could potentially wind up as an old-fashioned convention contest, with lots of horse trading between delegates.

After decades of conventions being more show than substance, with nominations in the bag before the start of the show, that would really make for some fascinating politics.


Elsewhere on the trail...


Christmas may be over, but for those who have not seen it, “Christmas with Mike Gravel” is timeless.

McCain polls well in SC, while Clinton and Obama scrabble for an edge with black voters.

More media focus than usual on Nevada primary.

Bush confidant Karen Hughes propounds on Clinton's “message problem.”

Romney campaign accentuates the positive.



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