In the wake of the Super Tuesday results that saw Newt Gingrich get beaten badly in every state but Georgia, more conservatives are talking about the necessity of the former House speaker dropping out of the presidential race if Mitt Romney is to be prevented from becoming the Republican nominee. Because Rick Santorum’s support was a multiple of his in every state but Georgia, the argument goes that it is incumbent on Gingrich to withdraw and allow Santorum to face Romney in a one-on-one battle in which the more conservative Pennsylvanian might be favored to win. Indeed, it can be argued that Gingrich’s presence on the ballot was the only reason why Santorum lost narrowly in both Michigan and Ohio in the last two weeks. If the sole object of conservatives is to nominate someone other than Romney, then Gingrich’s withdrawal appears to be not only logical but an imperative. However, the assumption that Gingrich will bow to these arguments ignores everything we know about him. Here are seven reasons why Newt isn’t likely to heed the call to withdraw:
1. He’s still holding on to hope of winning in other southern states. Gingrich’s camp is claiming he lost Tennessee because he’s concentrating on winning Alabama and Mississippi next week. But we were also told he was passing on some February contests to concentrate on Ohio where he turned out to be a non-factor this week. If there are any states where Gingrich does have a chance, it is in the Deep South, but given Santorum’s strength among evangelicals, the odds of him prevailing in either or both are dwindling. After another round of defeats, this excuse won’t hold much water.
2. His source of funding hasn’t dried up yet. Gingrich hasn’t been raising much money lately but his super PAC isn’t broke and apparently casino mogul Sheldon Adelson hasn’t plugged the plug on him yet, perhaps because he rightly believes keeping his friend in the race will help his second choice, Romney. Considering that Gingrich was able to keep his campaign going on a shoestring throughout last summer and fall without much money in the bank, there’s no reason to think the lack of resources alone will persuade him to drop out now.
3. He doesn’t think much more of Santorum than of Romney. Gingrich may have been willing to praise Santorum back in January when he hoped that he would drop out and endorse him the way Herman Cain and Rick Perry did, but Gingrich appears to resent the notion that he has been supplanted by someone who was once very much his inferior in the GOP pecking order. Part of Gingrich’s enormous self-regard is his low opinion of those of his peers who are unwilling to treat him with the deference he thinks he deserves. This is a character trait that has often prevented Gingrich from playing nicely with the other children in the political sandbox.
4. He thinks Santorum can’t be elected. Though the polls and the primary results tell a different story, Gingrich really does believe that he is uniquely equipped to beat President Obama in November. While his calls for Lincoln-Douglas debates set the eyes of media pundits and politicians rolling, Gingrich may believe that Santorum’s political weaknesses, like those of Romney, make him unlikely to defeat Obama.
5. Dropping out would be an admission his critics were right. As we saw in his bizarre victory speech in Georgia this week, Gingrich is motivated as much by his desire to prove his numerous critics wrong as anything else. The idea that he can prevail despite his personal baggage and inconsistent policy record has become something of an article of faith with the former speaker. Pulling out now would mean everyone else was right and he was wrong, something that directly contradicts his view of reality.
6. He likes running for president. Withdrawal — especially in favor of someone he considers a lesser man — would not only be personally humiliating, it would put an end to all the attention the media has been paying to him. Gingrich sorely missed being the center of attention during his years out of office and though the burden of running for president is enough to crush many other men, he has thrived on it. Gingrich might have run just for the fun of being in the debates alone. Going back to being a political has-been is going to be tough, and like some athletes who hold on too long and have the uniforms torn off them, Newt will have to be dragged out of the race. He won’t leave it voluntarily no matter what the inducements might be.
7. Newt really thinks America deserves a Gingrich presidency. There are some politicians who run for president not so much because they want it but because they are so besotted with the notion of their own greatness that they think it is only fair to give their fellow citizens a chance to do the right thing and put them in the White House. Gingrich’s self-regard and love for his country is such that he will not willingly deny Americans this last opportunity to make him their president so long as even the faintest hope for such an outcome exists.