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Gingrich’s Bad Week May Get Worse

Newt Gingrich’s week started out badly for him with a crushing loss in the Nevada caucuses that was followed by a press conference in which the former speaker demonstrated anew that his candidacy is driven as much by personal hatred of frontrunner Mitt Romney as it is by his own ambition. But things got worse for him today with the release of fresh polling data in two of the states to hold caucuses on Tuesday. Public Policy Polling’s latest findings on the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota show him trailing not only Romney but also Rick Santorum.

In Colorado, Romney is poised for another big win, with PPP showing him leading with 40 percent of the vote. But rather than Gingrich, it is Rick Santorum who is in second place there with 26 percent. Gingrich is in third with 18 percent while Ron Paul is in last with 12 percent. Even more alarming for the speaker is that Santorum is in the lead in Minnesota edging Romney 29 to 27 percent with Gingrich in third trailing behind with 22 percent. What this means is though Gingrich’s strategy may be to hold on until the Super Tuesday primaries, by then it may be clear it is Santorum who is the only viable “non-Romney” left in the race.

A Santorum victory in Minnesota alongside a Romney win in Colorado isn’t likely to derail the frontrunner. But it will, along with the results in Missouri’s non-binding primary where Gingrich isn’t even on the ballot, bolster the idea that the former Pennsylvania senator is the only real alternative to the Romney juggernaut.

Though Santorum’s chances at the nomination are not much better than those of Gingrich, his might be a protest candidacy that might not tear the party apart. The worst he has said of Romney is he can’t beat Obama. The contrast in the last few days between Santorum and Gingrich couldn’t be stronger. While Santorum has avoided mudslinging and reaped a lot of good will because of the public’s sympathy for him about his daughter Bella’s illness, Gingrich has more or less gone off the deep end. His bitterness at being beaten in the debates before the Florida primary and being trounced by Romney in the last two primaries has become the main theme of his candidacy.

Gingrich’s advantage over Santorum has been money. But if Gingrich’s main backers, such as pro-Israel casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, become convinced he is embarked on a suicide mission whose only purpose is Romney’s destruction, they may decide to pull the plug on him. If this week’s results allow Santorum to get ahead of Gingrich, the speaker may never catch him and soon find himself fading out of the race altogether.



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