Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has dropped out of the GOP presidential primary. Scott has many admirable qualities that would have made him a compelling candidate in another year,. Still, given the state of the Republican race, his decision should be welcomed.

With former president Donald Trump holding a wide lead in public polling, the only remaining candidates with so much as a prayer to pull off an upset are Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley. Scott’s continued presence in the race would have made that less likely. Scott did the right thing, and it behooves other candidates to cede to the campaigns that have a shot at defeating Trump.

DeSantis and Haley are the highest-polling candidates behind Trump, and they significantly differ in their approaches to politics. 

Supporters and detractors have seen Haley as a hearkening back to the pre-Trump Republican Party, focusing on an aggressive foreign policy abroad and economic opportunity at home.

DeSantis, meanwhile, has one foot in the lane of competence and fiscal responsibility and another in the culture war, promising to fight social progressivism in a way Trump only gave lip service to. 

Unfortunately, the public has seen little of this because so much time was wasted on candidates with no chance during the first three debates.

A debate between Haley and DeSantis would highlight their differences on critical issues like the extent of funding for Ukraine, their respective approaches to the culture wars, and their conflicting strategies on Big Tech. They each represent opposing theories of change that still fall under the same big tent of American conservatism, and the GOP owes it to its voters to let this discussion take place.

These discussions are pointless when constantly interrupted by candidates who don’t stand a chance. Further, the finer details of these issues cannot be credibly discussed by a reality-denying Trump, nor his puerile hype man, Vivek Ramaswamy, who insinuated in the most recent debate that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky supported Nazis.

Take a lesson from the Democrats of 2020. When they faced Trump, whom vast numbers of voters saw as unfit for office, they cleared the field of low-polling candidates. They nominated a former vice president who was broadly acceptable and considered competent by most voters.

DeSantis and Haley could fit that role against President Biden in 2024.

Nevertheless, they need the requisite exposure to the electorate, which isn’t happening when debates are diluted by the likes of Chris Christie, Ramaswamy, and, until recently, Scott.

Scott is a remarkable man, and his departure from the race was commendable. But his optimism didn’t match the mood of most voters, Republican or otherwise.

Though they show it in different ways, DeSantis and Haley have taken a more critical approach in their campaigns, and, with their most presidential competitor out of the race, it’s time to center their messages as the only ones that can plausibly compete with Trump and Biden.