The decision by Newt Gingrich to bypass the 2008 presidential race means the fields in both parties are set--at least for now. I wasn't surprised by Gingrich's decision; since talking with him at a press breakfast a couple of weeks ago, I didn't expect his exploratory effort to result in a "Go", though I did expect it to last longer than just a few days. No Democrat I know any longer expects that Al Gore will enter the race, either.
More likely are departures from the existing roster of candidate. Tommy Thompson has already exited the Republican field. Could Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas be next? Brownback has been wrestling former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for a foothold among conservative Christian voters, and Huckabee has gained the advantage. How much longer can Brownback run a campaign on the comparative pittance he has raised thus far?
The same question applies to trailing candidates on the Democratic sides, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. Neither can compete financially with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, each of whom has raised roughly $20-million in the third quarter. And neither has managed to lift his poll standing anywhere close to John Edwards or even Bill Richardson.
It may be that all serious candidates decide to remain in the campaign at least through the Iowa caucuses. They are only three months away. But we have reached the point where the field will only shrink, not grow: a sign that we have reached the home stretch.
And don't forget our CNBC GOP presidential debate next Tuesday night. I'll be one of the panelists. It's live from 4p EST to 6p EST from Dearborn, Michigan.
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