Final Nail in the Coffin of the Gingrich Campaign?

Before his campaign self-destructed, Newt Gingrich’s election strategy centered on going all-out in Iowa, with the Ames Straw Poll being a key part of that plan. Now he’s confirmed that he won’t be competing in the crucial event:

Gingrich, whose campaign has been hit with a series of setbacks including the mass resignation of senior staff, is opting for a low-budget, shoe leather campaign. That includes skipping the Aug. 13 straw poll to concentrate efforts on the Feb. 6 first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses.

It’s not like Gingrich really had a choice here. His polling numbers have plummeted in Iowa, going from 14 percent in August 2010 to just 4 percent in last month’s TIR survey. And his cash-strapped campaign declined to bid on a lot at the Ames Straw Poll, which is essential for competing seriously in the event. A poor showing in Ames would be a disaster for the campaign.

But if Gingrich isn’t able to compete in Ames, many are wondering how he expects to compete in the primaries, which will require significantly more organizing:

[Cary] Covington [University of Iowa associate professor of political science], says the straw poll isn’t so much about popularity but a measure of organizational and financial strength.

“Can you find people to go and do you have the money to pay for their tickets?” he says. …

“Getting people to Ames may be a struggle, but that’s probably a lot easier than getting people to some 5,000 precinct locations on caucus night,” he says.

The only question left is how much longer Gingrich is going to drag out this dying campaign.