It’s looking less and less likely that Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman will actually be a candidate come August. Today a judge ruled that his name should be removed from the primary ballot, pending an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, in another failure since Holtzman’s campaign was first told that it hadn’t secured the necessary signatures that would allow his name on the ballot. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:

For the past two weeks, Holtzman has been fighting a finding by Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis that he does not have enough petition signatures to earn a spot on the Aug. 8 primary ballot. Specifically, Dennis found that Holtzman had failed to get the required 1,500 signatures in the 1st and 7th congressional districts.

Last week Denver district court judge Robert Hyatt rejected an argument by Holtzman that, under Colorado’s provisional balloting law, he should be able to count signatures gathered anywhere in the state in the two congressional districts. It is that finding that Holtzman will appeal to the state supreme court.

This week Hyatt was expected to begin reviewing hundreds of signatures that were rejected by Dennis but that the Holtzman campaign insists are valid. Holtzman’s attorneys told Hyatt they would not bother going over the signatures pending a decision by the supreme court on their appeal.

Because of that decision, Hyatt said he would lift a temporary restraining order keeping Holtzman’s name on the ballot pending resolution of the case. But he gave Holtzman 48 hours to appeal that move to the Supreme Court.

This might have been the point in Holtzman’s crusade where he would have packed it in and called it a campaign…if Republicans hadn’t publicly called for him to quit already. It was wrong for GOP Chair Bob Martinez to call for Holtzman to quit the race, which he did after the state assembly last month, and it probably wasn’t a good idea for other Republican officials to repeatedly do the same in subsequent weeks. Rather than convince Holtzman to step aside for Bob Beauprez to take the nomination, the GOP machinery actually made it more difficult for him to leave the race. No candidate on such a big stage wants to look weak, especially someone who based his campaign on running against the “party establishment,” and the public demands left Holtzman with nothing to gain by dropping out. Instead, by making their demands public GOP officials put Holtzman in a position where he had nothing to lose by holding on to every last thread of possibility.

It’s important to remember that Holtzman has been running for governor longer than any of the three remaining candidates (Beauprez and Democrat Bill Ritter), which makes it tough to just walk away at this point. Holtzman first made known his candidacy in December 2004, and since then, he’s raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, employed dozens of staffers and convinced numerous volunteers to spend time on his campaign. That’s a big investment, and it’s not one that a candidate is willing to give up on so abruptly.

Normally when a campaign has been going on for this long, a candidate who can be convinced to drop out picks up some concessions; staffers get jobs with other campaigns, and the candidate picks up a chit that can be cashed in later if he decides to run for another office. Those details are usually worked out in private, however, because once demands are made public then both sides lose their leverage.

From Holtzman’s perspective, it makes more sense for him to just keep trying every avenue possible to get onto the primary ballot than it does to drop out. I understand the argument that he should do “what’s good for the party,” since the big loser here is Beauprez (who must plan for a primary and for a general election fight with Ritter at the same time), but what about doing what’s good for Holtzman? He doesn’t gain anything by dropping out now, because everybody who is mad at him for staying in the race is still going to be mad at him anyway.

Maybe Holtzman should have dropped out a month ago, but I don’t fault him at all for taking his fight all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court. What else is he going to do?