Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' pre-campaign effort was odd from the get-go. He antagonized key blocs of the Republican Party, evidenced a tin ear and seemed to take no counsel from anyone.
Now he's out, citing family concerns. Donald Trump never intended to run, and his exit was no surprise. But to Daniels' supporters, this "tease" may leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Meanwhile, former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman — who served in the Obama administration, previously backed cap-and-trade, is viewed warily by social conservatives and has no perceptible grassroots support — has made his candidacy even less credible.
The Washington Post reported: "Yet Huntsman broke with the president and more hawkish Republicans, including (Mitt) Romney, over Libya, arguing against intervention, even in the face of a humanitarian crisis.
"'It's an affordability issue. With all of our deployments and all of our engagements abroad, we need to ask a fundamental question: Can we afford to do this?' Huntsman said at a house party in Hancock, N.H."
Moreover, he argued on Friday, "I would tell you that we have to evaluate very carefully our presence in Afghanistan. And my inclination would be to say that it is a heavy and very expensive presence we have on the ground. That at a point in time where we need to be looking at our asymmetrical threats, what we have in Afghanistan today is not consistent with how we ought to be responding."
This is the sure way to limit his appeal and join the pack of marginal candidates.
So what now? The contenders are dropping like flies. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be under intense pressure to enter the race, as will New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is generating buzz as he puts out feelers about a run. The nomination is there for the taking by one of the dynamic, unifying conservatives who have been sitting on the sidelines.
And let's not forget former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Right now he is the certainly the only credible not-Romney candidate. "Everyone's second choice" may become the default front-runner. Unless, of course, one of the conservative dreamboat candidates gets into the race.