Anyone who thought Rick Santorum’s dramatic suspension of his presidential campaign would cause Newt Gingrich to fall into line and give up his own quixotic quest for the Republican nomination doesn’t understand the former Speaker of the House. Gingrich may have acknowledged that Mitt Romney was the likely GOP nominee in an interview just this past Sunday on Fox News, but he reacted to the Santorum announcement as if it was an opportunity by asking the senator’s supporters to jump over to his camp. Though it is unlikely that not many will join a cause that was lost months ago, this was all the excuse Gingrich needed to resume his pointless candidacy.
While there was a moment back during the winter when the withdrawal of either Gingrich or Santorum would have had an impact on the GOP race, that boat sailed sometime in February. Gingrich lost the contest for the title of the leading conservative “not Romney” to Santorum but has been hanging around giving the impression he has nothing better to do with his life than attempt to masquerade as a credible candidate. While most Republicans understand that for all intents and purposes this is the first day of the general election campaign, for Gingrich it represents the hope that he can squeeze a little more attention out of an American public that has already demonstrated it is sick and tired of him.
That any continuation of the Gingrich sideshow makes no sense has been apparent for months. His campaign has amassed $4.5 million in debt, according to reports. The situation is so bad that, as ABC News reported, a check written on March 27 by the campaign to secure his place on the ballot in Utah bounced when it was deposited by the state. This story, which comes after the news last week that the health care think tank started by Gingrich had filed for bankruptcy shows just how dire the former speaker’s finances are right now. Though he had divested himself of control of The Gingrich Group last year when he began his presidential run, the lion’s share of his net worth derives from a promissory note from the think tank that has gone bust.
Republicans need to spend the upcoming months preparing for the fall election and shoring up the unity of a party that Gingrich has done much to divide with attacks on Romney from both the right and the left. Any time spent in the next few months on a futile campaign or an effort to have an impact on the Republican convention or platform (Gingrich may be the last person on the planet who thinks those documents have any value or are worth fighting about) will distract Gingrich from his main task of the moment: paying off his campaign debt. While Republicans may wish him good luck in that task, it’s time for the reconstituted Gingrich sideshow to exit the carnival.