For the vanity candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination to be President of the United States, Kos at Daily Kos has one word: Ugh.
While this dismissal received waves of disapproval in the comments from people who agree with the vanity candidates on matters of policy, I share his sentiment. Elections are for the purpose of selecting leaders. If you aren't in the race to win, or have no viable chance of winning, you have a moral obligation to get out of the race. You merely humiliate yourself and discredit your cause by staying in the race. It shows that you don't have a grip on reality, and it suggests that your other beliefs may be tainted by the same inability to face the facts. You are also doing a disservice to your party, in the primary stage, by diluting scarce resources available to inform voters of the best choice in the race on the merits.
The only time it is appropriate to run a campaign with a dim chance of winning is in a partisan race that would otherwise go uncontested, to force your political opponent to make his or her case to the voters and to be on hand to benefit from a political calamity should it arise at the last moment.
The op-ed pages, the blogosphere, the book trade and the lecture circuit are full of opportunities to get a political message out without running for higher office, something that Al Gore has proved in spades.