Bye Bye For Bauer

Gary Bauer, whose most memorable campaign moment may have come when he fell off the stage at the pancake flipping contest in New Hampshire, fit the words to the deed Friday. He announced he was dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Bauer finished fourth in Iowa and last in New Hampshire - such a profound "last" that he realized he could not continue. "I'm a fighter, but I'm not delusional," Bauer said Tuesday, as the writing on the wall became clear.

Bauer announced his withdrawal at a Washington, D.C. hotel. "I feel good about the effort we've made, and I feel good about how I've moved the debate in this party," he said. Bauer's campaign revolved around opposition to abortion, and opposition to trade with China, as well as support for those warm, vague family values which conservatives claim to have a lock on.

He hit his key issues again in his withdrawal speech, insisting "On this issue I will not be moved. On this issue I will not go away," as he worked down his list.

Bauer is the second Republican candidate to withdraw from the race since actual voting began. Orrin Hatch, the senator from Utah, dropped out just over a week ago, after finishing last in Iowa.

So strongly does Bauer feel about abortion, and trade with China, that he said he wouldn't endorse George W. Bush or John McCain unless they come around to his way of thinking on these topics. It's unlikely that his silence will hurt Bush, still the front-runner, or the red-hot McCain.

But his supporters might turn to the other candidates presenting themselves as true-blue conservatives. Alan Keyes, whose views are, if possible, to the right of Bauer's, remains in the race as the the representative of extreme conservatives. He doesn't seem daunted by his single digit percentage in New Hampshire, and is likely to hang around for a few more debates, or at least for a few more mosh pits. Steve Forbes is still running too; his campaign is funded by his own wealth and ego, so he may stick with his quixotic dream for a while.

Bauer spoke graciously of the New Hampshire voters who killed his hopes. "They listened carefully, and they did the job they were asked to do," he reflected. It just wasn't the job he asked them to do.