Who's Going to Drop Out of the 2012 Race First?

The race to be the first to concede the Republican primary is on

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Here's an immutable truth of the Republican primary: of the many, many contenders for the presidential nomination, all but one will lose. That means that eventually -- this week, this month, this year -- the herd will thin. Who'll be the first to go? The New York Times's  Jeff Zeleny gets the magic 8-ball rolling this morning with a look at former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty's struggling campaign under the headline: "Will Republican Race’s First In Be the First Out?"

Pawlenty has been running for president for two years, focusing intensely on Iowa, but he's still polling at just 6 percent in the state. If he doesn't do well in the Iowa Straw poll, a little more than a month away, his campaign is probably finished. Pawlenty told the Des Moines Register's editors that he's behind in the polls because "this week is the first time that I've campaigned in earnest in Iowa," Jennifer Jacobs writes--but Pawlenty has been in the state more times than any of his rivals save Rick Santorum.

Pawlenty may stick it out for a little bit longer, but there are plenty of contenders for the first to concede that they won't be going to the White House in 2013. 

Newt Gingrich has had a rough campaign so far too--his staff quit, his Tiffany's habit was revealed, he criticized an unpopular Medicare overhaul plan, his campaign is a million dollars in debt--and Slate's Dave Weigel wonders if he's just waiting till the right moment to pull out of the campaign with dignity. Iowa Politic's Lynn Campbell reports that even groups who've invited Gingrich to speak aren't being nice to him: the Christian group The Family Leader issued a statement four days before his lecture saying,

"Our exceptional and free society simply cannot endure without … nurturing nuclear families comprised of sexually faithful husbands and wives... We acknowledge and regret the widespread hypocrisy of many who say they defend marriage, yet turn a blind eye toward the epidemic of infidelity and the anemic condition of marriages in their own communities."

Gingrich is on his third marriage.

Rick Santorum hasn't won an election in 11 years when he was Senator from Pennsylvania. And despite going to Iowa even more than Tim Pawlenty, he's polling at 4 percent in the state. A telling headline from CBS News' Lucy Madison is this: "Rick Santorum: Back of the pack not a bad place to be." Referring to a poll showing a large majority of Republican voters unhappy with any of the 2012 candidates, Santorum explained that it was actually a good thing: "As someone who's sitting at the back of the pack, and probably has the lowest name recognition; they're probably not talking about me... That's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I think that's an opportunity." So he's probably unlikely to drop out any time soon--thanks to the power of denial.

Jon Huntsman joined the race just two weeks ago, but his campaign announcement earned him zero bounce in the polls. Some assume the pro-gay rights, environmentally-friendly Republican is just planting the seeds for a 2016 run.

Herman Cain still polls well, but he's not very good at talking about the things you have to talk about when you run for president. He's flubbed answers on Palestinians' "right of return," said he'd only sign bills three pages long or less, and couldn't explain whether he'd hire Muslims at a primary debate. And his staff quit. But he's rich and he seems to enjoy all the attention. So he'll probably stick it out for the long haul.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.