WASHINGTON (AP) — To hear exiting presidential primary candidates tell it, their campaigns never die. They are just suspended.
But make no mistake. When they suspend a campaign, it's not to take a break for household chores or a reflective week at the beach. It's game over.
Republicans Rand Paul and Rick Santorum left the race Wednesday; Mike Huckabee and Martin O'Malley did so right after the Iowa caucuses. All four said they were suspending their campaigns.
Suspending a campaign is a term of art in politics that has little if any legal significance but may give the hopeful-no-more some wiggle room for continuing to raise money, if anyone is still inclined to give it, and for winding down operations.
Also, it sounds better than quitting.
Ex-candidates' campaign websites live on — mostly phantoms now, but with the "donate" link still active. The frantic appeals for cash subside, although Santorum appealed for money to help pay the bills after suspending his previous primary campaign, in 2012.
Huckabee now says on his site "I have suspended my campaign" and he'll finally be "spending some time with my dogs." O'Malley, a Democrat, says "I am suspending my campaign for the presidency." Paul's site still had him intending to "unleash the American Dream" and an outdated schedule of campaign events, after his video announcement saying: "Today I will suspend my campaign for the presidency."
A suspension may imply that if rival campaigns implode, the candidate can always jump back, a road rarely taken. One of the few exceptions: Ross Perot suspended his third-party presidential campaign in July 1992 only to renew it that October, a month before the election.
Candidates who power through much of the race before quitting have some standing afterward: a coveted endorsement to give, a prominent convention speaking slot to negotiate, perhaps substantial delegates to steer to a favored contender. But those who make little impact in the primary campaign have little impact outside of it.
For these departed, the bottom line of a suspension is that employees are let go, advisers disperse, donors place their bets on those still politically alive, and the campaign world moves inexorably on without them.