Kasich, Cruz, and Carson received the most votes as former White House hopefuls; 10 GOPers won more votes as ex-candidates than when they were still in the race

johnkasich20Republican voters set party records during the 2016 campaign with north of 30 million votes cast in primaries and caucuses through last week’s June 7th contests.

The GOP had a modern era high water mark of 17 major candidates running for office with 14 appearing on at least one state ballot this cycle.

One by one these candidates fell to Donald Trump, but hundreds of thousands of voters across the country turned out to support them even though their campaigns had ended days, weeks, or sometimes even months before.

Smart Politics tallied the results from primaries and caucuses throughout the campaign and found that more than 1.6 million Republican voters cast their presidential preference vote for candidates who had already exited the race, or 5.4 percent, led by John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson.

Jeb Bush, whose campaign ended early after the South Carolina primary, appeared on 34 state ballots as an ex-candidate – most in the field.

Carly Fiorina appeared on 29 followed by Rand Paul (28), Ben Carson (27), Chris Christie (26), Mike Huckabee (26), Rick Santorum (25), Lindsey Graham (13), Marco Rubio (10), Ted Cruz (9), John Kasich (9), Jim Gilmore (8), George Pataki (7), and Bobby Jindal (2).

The Republican winning the most votes as a former candidate, however, was Governor Kasich at 451,673 – approximately 31K more than Senator Cruz who tallied 420,577.

Kasich and Cruz both exited the race after the Indiana primary in early May, and Cruz received more support than the governor in seven of the final nine primaries – Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

But Kasich netted more than 70K votes over Cruz in California (where he recorded 205K votes) and New Jersey (59K) to end up the leading vote-getter among ex-candidates this cycle.

But not all candidates peppering the top of the list were late-exiters.

Ben Carson, who suspended his campaign after Super Tuesday on March 4th, came in third with 263,092 votes with Jeb Bush a distant fourth at 191,498 votes.

Both candidates received many more votes than Marco Rubio’s 119,163, who was the third to last Republican to suspend their campaign on March 15th.

Carson won more votes than Rubio in six of the eight states in which the names of both candidates still appeared on the ballot: in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nebraska, and West Virginia.

The retired neurosurgeon also outpaced Bush in 20 of the 23 states in which voters had a chance to support these two ex-candidates: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and New Mexico.

Rand Paul had the sixth most votes at 58,221 followed by Mike Huckabee (48,007), Chris Christie (33,181), Carly Fiorina (25,292), Jim Gilmore (15,290), Rick Santorum (14,616), Lindsey Graham (5,672), George Pataki (2,000), and Bobby Jindal (219).


Gilmore, it should be noted, famously won only 12 votes in Iowa and 134 in New Hampshire while still running for the office.

The former Virginia governor therefore claimed 104 times more votes across the eight states in which he appeared on the ballot after exiting the race – 12,770 of which came in California.

In total 10 Republican White House hopefuls received more votes as ex-candidates than they did while they were still on the campaign trail: Bush, Paul, Huckabee, Christie, Fiorina, Gilmore, Santorum, Graham, Pataki, and Jindal.

Huckabee won 14.4 times more votes in primaries once he exited the race compared to when he was still in the hunt with Santorum at 8.2 times followed by Paul (6.9), Bush (2.0), Fiorina (1.7), and Christie (1.4). [Note: Graham, Pataki, and Jindal all exited the race before the Iowa caucuses)].


Overall more than 1.64 million votes were cast for ex-candidates during the primary season, or 5.4 percent of all votes in contests with a presidential preference vote.

A total of 10 states saw votes for ex-candidates eclipse the 10 percent mark – Arizona and each of the last nine contests on the calendar.

Nebraska voters led the way at 38.5 percent, followed by South Dakota (32.9 percent), Oregon (32.5 percent), New Mexico (29.3 percent), California (25.1 percent), Washington (24.5 percent), West Virginia (22.9 percent), Montana (21.6 percent), New Jersey (19.6 percent), and Arizona (15.8 percent).

Early voting contributed in part to the elevated support for ex-candidates in Arizona, Nebraska, and West Virginia when candidates exited the race after in-person early voting had begun.

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