That was fast. Newt Gingrich will formally end his campaign in Virginia this afternoon, and he’s reportedly already getting on board with bitter rival Mitt Romney. The Republican National Committee says it’s going to help Gingrich pay down debt, a nice gesture that may at least help keep him in line for the rest of the campaign season:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the eve of suspending his roller coaster presidential bid, said in an interview with USA TODAY that he will embrace Mitt Romney‘s candidacy Wednesday and is ready to campaign for his former rival.
The two men will make a joint appearance in a few weeks, when Gingrich will make an official endorsement. The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee have offered to be helpful as Gingrich works to retire his campaign debt.
Newt Gingrich will officially drop out of the race next Tuesday, but he’s already cut his supporters loose. Rick Perry endorsed Mitt Romney last night, and Gingrich’s campaign says he’ll follow suit. But how much of a role will the Republican Party want to give Gingrich, after his harsh attacks on Romney and excessively-long campaign? According to Politico, it might be next to nothing:
“I think [he’s] unlikely to get even a non-prime slot to slash at Obama in Tampa,” former Gingrich-turned-Rick-Perry adviser Dave Carney said. “It’s quite possible that the Romney folks will want to focus on the future and move quickly away from the primary. Time will tell if the speaker gets his own speed-dial number at the surrogate operation in Boston this fall.” …
“Whatever talents he can put forth, he’s offered up,” [Gingrich spokesman R.C.] Hammond said.
The former House speaker is also starting to talk with congressional, gubernatorial and other local candidates about making campaign appearances throughout the fall, Hammond said, adding that in parts of the country, Gingrich still has star power.
“You’ll see him right at the head of the charge of this party as we try to take back the U.S. Senate,” Hammond said.
Via First Read, Newt Gingrich finally seems to be moving toward the door, weeks after Mitt Romney cemented himself as the presumptive nominee:
“I think we need to take a deep look at what we are doing,” Gingrich told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Monday. “We will be in North Carolina tomorrow night and we will look and see what the results are.”
He acknowledged that he would have to “reassess” his campaign depending on how he fares in Delaware, a winner-take-all state with 17 delegates at stake.
“This has been a good opportunity for us, we have been here seeing a lot of people,” Gingrich said. “We have got really positive responses and I would hope we would do well here – either carry it or come very, very close.”
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.
As Alana noted earlier, there’s a lot of talk about Rick Santorum pulling off the campaign trail for several days, that he’s reassessing his campaign, and that there might even be a Santorum-Gingrich “unity effort” to try to stop Mitt Romney from winning the GOP nomination.
Count me among those who believe that what Santorum decides doesn’t matter all that much.
I say that because the race is decided, even if it’s not officially over. Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. Reporters have stopped covering Newt Gingrich, and they will become increasingly uninterested in what Santorum says. And Governor Romney is wisely focusing all his attention on President Obama rather than his GOP opponents. So even if Santorum stays in the race, the dynamic has fundamentally shifted. The only way Santorum can get much attention is by increasingly shrill attacks on the person who has, in a long and fair contest, soundly defeated him. And that will hurt Santorum even more than Romney. Even now, Santorum’s complaints about the GOP “establishment” and its “aristocracy” seem out of touch. (People like Jim DeMint, Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan hardly qualify as RINOs.)
Desperate times call for desperate measures:
Rick Santorum is reassessing his campaign strategy this weekend, but he’s still committed to stopping Mitt Romney.
“BREAKING NEWS: Santo meeting in Virginia now w conservative leaders,” Time’s Mark Halperin tweeted. “Talk re the path forward, Santo-Newt unity effort to stop Romney.” Translation: Santorum meeting in Virginia now with conservative leaders. They are talking about the path forward, a Santorum-Newt unity effort to stop Romney.
Halperin added that a “Santor[um] source, responding to speculation: ‘He is NOT dropping out before Pennsylvania.’ [Meeting is about the] best way to proceed, not whether to.”
As Alana noted earlier, Mitt Romney will be taking time out of his primary schedule to fundraise with and for the Republican National Committee (RNC). According to the RNC, this fundraising opportunity was offered to every candidate, however, Romney was the only one to accept the offer. The Wall Street Journal reported, “In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.” This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as the Republican group offered to do the same with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Why might Santorum (and for that matter Gingrich) have refused the opportunity to take up the RNC’s offer? Each candidate, when fundraising alone, is unable to raise more than $2,500 per donor for their primary and general election campaigns. Fundraising with the RNC means that individual donors can give up to $75,000 to not only the campaigns of specific candidates but also toward the RNC and the state-level parties in swing states. The caveat for the candidate fundraisers is this: the money raised in excess of the $2,500 goes only toward the eventual nominee. If Santorum or Gingrich took time out of their schedules to fundraise with and for the RNC and did not become the nominee, the money they raised goes to the nominee, not back to their campaigns to pay off outstanding debts or serve as a starting off point for a future run.
Billionaire casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson is still defending Newt Gingrich as the best candidate in the field, but it sounds like he may be getting ready to move on now that Gingrich’s chances at the nomination have evaporated.
“I mean, it appears as if he’s at the end of his line,” Adelson said at a Jewish Federation event, according to video posted by the Jewish Journal. “Because mathematically he can’t get anywhere near the numbers, and it’s unlikely to be a brokered convention.”
But Adelson also didn’t sound impressed by either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. He compared Romney to President Obama when he was in the Senate, saying he simply isn’t decisive enough.
“I’ve talked to Romney many, many times,” said Adelson. “Everything I’ve said to Mitt, he’s said, ‘Let me look into.’ So he’s like Obama. When Obama was in the Illinois senate, 186 times he voted present. Because he didn’t want to damage his record.”
The billionaire had even harsher words for Santorum.
After the walloping they took last night in Illinois, Rick Santorum’s supporters are hopeful that the next stop on the Republican primary calendar will cheer them up. Santorum is favored to win Saturday’s Louisiana Primary but that won’t change the fact that on Tuesday, he lost one of his last chances to win a state whose GOP is not dominated by evangelicals. The 47-35 percent beating he took in Illinois — which allowed Romney to win all but a handful of the state’s convention delegates — does more than merely reinforce the sense of Romney’s inevitability that is now acknowledged by all but the most diehard of his opponents’ supporters. The pattern of voting is such that there is now no longer any credible scenario that can be put forward in which Romney is denied a majority of the convention’s delegates by June.
Though the race will go on for at least another month, for the first time in this long and tortuous race, the end is clearly in sight. The April 24 Pennsylvania primary now looks to be an opportunity for Romney to close out his opponent by beating him in his home state. But even if Santorum can hold onto Pennsylvania, the May 8 trio of North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia may be his last stand especially since Romney is likely to win most of the states that vote in April. The delegate math makes it impossible for Santorum to pretend that he can actually win the nomination on his own. Not even the complete collapse of Newt Gingrich’s candidacy — the former speaker finished dead last in the field of four behind Ron Paul — has been enough to prevent the frontrunner from assuming a commanding lead that will not be overtaken.
For weeks, pundits have been wondering when Newt Gingrich will admit that he’s licked and give up his presidential campaign. After losses in Mississippi and Alabama last week — which were probably the last states in which he could have been said to have a decent chance of victory — many wrongly assumed that he would draw the proper conclusions and withdraw. But he hasn’t and despite abysmal poll ratings, there’s no sign that he will. Why? Politico offers a reasonable answer: He’s having too good a time running.
The piece, titled “New Gingrich’s Twin Campaigns,” poses the contradiction between the happy warrior on the hustings and the financial realities of an enterprise that appears to have gone bust months ago. While vendors, staffers and consultants are being stiffed for their expenses and salaries, the candidate and his wife are enjoying what the article aptly calls “Newt and Callista’s Excellent Adventure,” in which they combine fine dining, numerous visits to zoos (Newt’s favorite pastime) and other site-seeing activities with speeches before increasingly sparse audiences. Viewed in this light, the Gingrich campaign appears to be more of a paid vacation for the happy couple than a quixotic quest for the presidency. Under these circumstances, we can expect him to keep running as long as there is enough money in the till to pay for hotels and restaurant tabs.
The political calculus that outside observers have tried to use to determine Gingrich’s intentions appears to have no relation at all to his decision-making process. Gingrich is smart enough to know he can’t win but seems oblivious to the impact of his continued presence in the race on the other candidates. Though his animus for Mitt Romney is obvious, rather than seeing him as a conservative whose priority was to stop the frontrunner in the way that Rick Santorum’s effort has been pitched, it might be more apt to see him in the same light as the far more marginal Ron Paul.
Paul’s continued run has nothing to do with the practicalities of the race or whether he will win or lose. He’s running to promote his extremist libertarian ideology and can be expected to keep going until the nomination of another candidate forces him to stop. Gingrich is also being propelled by a personal agenda rather than political strategy. The only difference is that Gingrich’s personal agenda is about Gingrich and nothing else. Despite his talk about his wish list of presidential initiatives that he will undertake in the event he is elected, Gingrich has been running for the fun of being in the race and little else.
The only thing that could force him to get off the road is if he runs out of money. Since his campaign is using all available cash to fund the Newt and Callista tour, it’s possible there’s enough to keep him on his long vacation for some time to come. However the day will come when the piper will have to be paid and one imagines that Gingrich is counting on some of the wealthy friends that have helped finance him so far to step in after the fact and pay off what may prove to be an onerous campaign debt. Candidates are personally responsible for these debts. That’s why most drop out quickly once it is clear they can’t win since they dread spending the next decade desperately fundraising to pay for an effort that has already failed.
While Newt and Callista are having a great time, one wonders if it is has occurred to her that if he really intends to keep it up until the September convention, she may have to pawn some of those trinkets that Newt bought for her at Tiffany’s.
According to Public Policy Polling’s latest survey today, Mitt Romney is now leading Rick Santorum, 45 percent to 30 percent, in Illinois. And the obstacles aren’t easily surmountable for Santorum. Not only is Romney polling ahead with groups he normally tends to do poorly with – rural voters, for example – but Santorum’s support is lagging with groups he needs to win. In this case, Tea Partiers and values voters:
Santorum’s winning the group he tends to do well with- Tea Partiers, Evangelicals, and those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ But he’s not winning them by the kinds of wide margins he would need to take an overall victory- he’s up only 8 with Tea Party voters and 10 with Evangelicals, groups he needs to win by more like 25 points with to hope to win in a northern state.
The Wall Street Journal reports on Newt Gingrich, who is in Illinois once again comparing himself favorably to Ronald Reagan. “Other than Ronald Reagan, I know of no Republican in my lifetime who’s been able to talk like this,” Gingrich told a banquet crowd in Palatine, referring to his own policy ideas on energy, brain science and other matters. “That’s why I’m still running, because the gap is so huge.”
The Journal goes on to say, “If Mr. Gingrich has failed to capture the party’s imagination in his bid for its presidential nomination, he says, it isn’t his fault. He offers big ideas, but ‘the news media can’t cover it, and my opponents can’t comprehend it,’’ he says.”
The latest surveys of Illinois Republicans ought to put at least a bit of a damper on the growing speculation about a GOP stalemate leading to a brokered convention. The Fox Chicago News poll shows Mitt Romney holding onto a solid 37-31 percentage point lead over Rick Santorum in next Tuesday’s primary, with Newt Gingrich trailing badly at 14 percent. A new Rassmussen poll gives Romney an even bigger lead with a 41-32 percentage point lead with Gingrich also at 14 percent. Yet Romney, who is reportedly outspending Santorum in the state by a 5-1 margin, is taking no chances in Illinois. Nor should he. The Land of Lincoln may well be the last clear shot Santorum has to knock off the frontrunner in a major state where few thought he would have a chance to pull off an upset that could potentially alter the dynamic of the contest. Having narrowly failed to do so in Michigan and Ohio, Illinois is perhaps Santorum’s last opportunity on the primary calendar to show the party he can do more than just place a close second in a state where the GOP is not dominated by evangelicals.
Though Santorum, who has often outperformed his poll results (such as he did this past Tuesday in Mississippi and Alabama) is certainly still within striking range in Illinois, his biggest obstacle is not so much the deluge of Romney ad attacks (though that certainly doesn’t help his cause) as it is the decision of Newt Gingrich to stay in the race. Gingrich has spent the last couple of days promoting the idea that only by remaining on the ballot can Romney be denied the chance to gain a majority of the delegates before the convention. That’s a dubious notion that is being seconded by some Romney supporters seeking to stir the pot. But as in Michigan and Ohio, Gingrich’s only role is that of spoiler. Were he to get out now, it would give Santorum at the very least an extra few percentage points that may mean the difference between a stunning first place finish and another disappointing second place result that will have to be spun as a moral victory.
After Newt Gingrich’s defeats in Mississippi and Alabama this week, the expectation in some quarters was that the former speaker would realize he had no hope to win the nomination and bow out of the race. Certainly that’s what Rick Santorum and his supporters were hoping. It would set up the one-on-one matchup with Mitt Romney that they think will give him a chance to turn the GOP race around. Though there have been signs some in Gingrich’s campaign are looking for the exit signs, the candidate is giving no indication he’s giving up yet. Last week, I came up with seven reasons why Gingrich won’t quit, and I think they are still valid. But apparently he has come up with another one to justify the continuation of his presidential run: staying in the race hurts Romney.
This seems counterintuitive as Gingrich’s presence on the ballot diverted a portion of the conservative vote away from Santorum and probably cost the Pennsylvanian first place finishes in Michigan and Ohio. It might do the same next week in Illinois, a primary that could be a turning point in the race should Santorum pull an upset. The idea put forward by Gingrich’s camp is that because the GOP’s rules this year have encouraged proportional delegate allocation, keeping the nomination battle a three-way race (not counting libertarian outlier Ron Paul who is polling in the single digits just about everywhere these days) means Romney will be deprived of the ability to rack up large delegate hauls, thus making it impossible for him to reach a majority before the convention. Though this is a weak argument, it may be all Gingrich requires to justify continuing his ego-gratifying presidential run.
The results from last night’s GOP primaries and caucuses – wins for Rick Santorum in Mississippi and Alabama and wins for Mitt Romney in Hawaii and American Samoa — simply confirmed some existing trends. It’s a two-man race.
Mitt Romney won the night in terms of delegates (41 v. 35 for Rick Santorum). Governor Romney remains the frontrunner, with a huge lead in total delegates (498 v. 239 for Santorum). He’s won 50 percent of all the delegates awarded to date and 45 percent of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination He’s also won more than a million more votes than Santorum during the course of the campaign so far.
After last night’s twin triumphs in the Deep South for Rick Santorum, the future of the Republican presidential race has come down to one question: is there anything the Pennsylvanian can do to entice Newt Gingrich to drop out and endorse him or to just suspend his campaign? Though the delegate math still favors Mitt Romney, next week’s Illinois primary looms as yet another do-or-die test in much the same way Michigan and Ohio did. Santorum fell short in both of those states, allowing Mr. Inevitable to survive, though just barely. With polls showing Santorum only trailing Romney in Illinois by a few percentage points, the question is what can he do to make up the gap this time?
The obvious answer for Santorum is to somehow persuade Gingrich to get out of the race. I wrote last week detailing seven reasons why I thought the former speaker wouldn’t do it. I still think I’m right about that, but after defeats in Mississippi and Alabama, there is no longer any conceivable scenario by which Gingrich could be nominated. His mere presence on the ballot helps divide the conservative vote and might, as it did in Michigan and Ohio, allow Romney to squeak out a victory. If Gingrich is at all inclined to bargain with Santorum then his bargaining power will never be greater than it is at this moment. That leaves us to ponder whether the speaker might be willing to accept a promise of a place on the ticket or a cabinet post in exchange for backing Santorum.
The Gingrich campaign finally seems to be acknowledging that it’s mathematically impossible for them to win the nomination in the traditional way at this point. So Newt has now settled on a new goal: stay in the race in order to prevent Mitt Romney from collecting the 1,144 delegates needed to wrap up the nomination. Byron York reports:
Gingrich no longer says he can capture the 1,144 delegates required to wrap up the Republican nomination. Instead, he now speaks frankly about a new plan: Keep Romney from getting to 1,144 by the end of the GOP primary season in June, and then start what Gingrich calls a “conversation” about who should be the Republican nominee. That conversation, the plan goes, would lead to a brokered GOP convention at which Gingrich would emerge as the eventual nominee.
“Our goal first is to keep Romney well below 1,000,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said an hour before Gingrich addressed a small crowd of disappointed supporters gathered at the Wynfrey Hotel. ”It doesn’t have to be 1,000, or 1,050 — it has to be below 1,100.” If Gingrich succeeds, Hammond continued, “This will be the first time in our party in modern politics that we’re going to go to the convention floor.”
The two primaries in Alabama and Mississippi were a trap for Rick Santorum because anything but victories for him could have been construed as devastating blows to his campaign. Wins by Mitt Romney would have demonstrated his ability to win in any part of the country including states where conservatives and evangelical voters predominate. Wins by Newt Gingrich would have given him a reason to go on other than his ego. But by sweeping both Deep South states that voted on Tuesday, Santorum added two more triumphs to the already impressive list of states that he has won. The delegate math will not be altered much today due to the proportional allocation system as well as Romney’s expected wins in Hawaii and American Samoa. But though Romney can still have a reasonable expectation of ultimately winning the nomination, Santorum’s momentum places the notion of his inevitability in doubt.
Even if, as I expect, Gingrich stays in the race after losing the last two states where he could have been said to have had a chance to win, Santorum is now in a position to do some real damage to the Romney juggernaut in the upcoming weeks. With polls already showing Romney having only a slight lead over Santorum in a large state like Illinois where he ought to win, Tuesday’s victories allow the Pennsylvanian to hope he can add to his string of upsets. If Santorum ends March by stacking up victories in Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri, then although he will still be trailing badly in the delegate count, his path to the nomination won’t look quite so much of a fantasy as it did a few weeks ago. Though Romney will still have impressive advantages, so long as the votes are still be counted state by state, momentum has a way of overwhelming math.
A slow vote count in both Alabama and Mississippi has left the outcome of both primaries in doubt until 10pm. Both states appeared to be a three-way scrum in which Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were all within a few points of each other. Nevertheless, Santorum has been projected to win Alabama and has taken a lead in Mississippi leaving open the question of just how significant such a double victory would be if, in fact, he hangs on in both states.
It should be understood that in contrast to earlier primaries, this is one night in which all the pressure was on Santorum and Gingrich with very little on Romney. Few expected Romney to do well in the Deep South where evangelical voters predominate. A win in either Alabama or Mississippi would be a coup for the frontrunner and prove that his was truly a national candidacy. But even if he fails to win, he doesn’t lose much ground in the all-important delegate count since the proportional allocation of delegates won’t give any of the three contenders much of an advantage after such a close race. And with Hawaii, whose caucus results may well be known before Alabama finishes its ultra-slow vote count, will likely give Romney a win offsetting any damage done in the South by Santorum. Nevertheless, a double victory for Santorum would enable the Pennsylvanian to once again claim that he is the true standard-bearer for conservatives. It would also place more pressure on Newt Gingrich to withdraw though I doubt there is anything that could compel the former speaker to abandon his candidacy.
After consecutive weeks of coping with do-or-die primaries in Michigan and Ohio, it is fair to say the pressure’s off Mitt Romney this week. While his candidacy would receive a major boost from victories in either Mississippi or Alabama, he’s not under the same pressure to win there. With evangelicals predominating in both of these southern states, the assumption is either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum ought to be the favorite. Yet with both challengers competing hard to win there, the frontrunner may have as good a chance as any of them.
But the outcome in Mississippi and Alabama will have major implications for both Santorum and Gingrich. Santorum has spent the last month playing the role of the principal “not Romney” in the GOP race. But wins in these states by anybody but him will undermine that claim, perhaps fatally. Anything that burnishes Gingrich’s assertion that he is the true conservative hope will play into Romney’s hands, because it will mean that a divided field won’t be winnowed down to Santorum’s desired one-on-one matchup with the former Massachusetts governor. If Santorum is to be the conservative standard bearer in the fight for the Republican nomination, he’s got to beat both Gingrich and Romney in the South.