“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.’…

“But the Washington establishment, or more accurately the East Coast establishment, is about to declare Gingrich dead. After Tuesday’s primary, reporters from the Washington Post and New York Times were leaving the Gingrich campaign; it’s not clear how regularly the papers will cover Gingrich from now on. That’s a sign of establishment rejection that Gingrich would relish — he’s scored a lot of political points attacking the media — but the real worry is that the Gingrich campaign might slowly fade from press coverage. And then — far more ominously — those 175,000 donors might begin to lose their enthusiasm, along with their resolve to give again.”

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“‘We’re actually helping because between us – Santorum and I – are stopping Romney,’ Gingrich said…

“If Gingrich drops out, he argues, two things will happen:

“1) His vote gets divided between Santorum and Romney. A larger percentage would go to Santorum, but at least some goes to Romney, allowing him to accumulate more delegates; and,

“2) Romney is then able to aim all of his considerable firepower at Santorum, destroying him with negative ads the way he twice destroyed Gingrich (in Iowa and Florida).”

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“Newt Gingrich’s plan to keep Mitt Romney from winning the necessary delegates for the GOP nomination means the presidential contenders might have to form a deal in order to avoid a brokered convention, a leading Gingrich surrogate told The Hill.

“Former Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) said an agreement between the candidates would be preferable to taking the fight to the convention floor in Tampa, Fla., this August.

“‘If the four candidates that are involved decide to somehow put delegates together to make somebody the nominee based on the delegates they’ve earned I don’t think I’d call that a backroom deal,’ he said. ‘A brokered convention [could] go against the wishes of all the voters and maybe pick someone who wasn’t even running. No one I know wants a brokered convention.'”

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“He insisted in his election-night speech that he was going forward — ignoring that he’s lost every one of the last 30 contests except for Georgia, his home state.

“‘Newt’s been dead for awhile, but now we’ve got proof,’ cracked Murphy.

“In a sign that Gingrich is increasingly out of options, a senior adviser to his campaign began floating the idea of a fusion ticket between the two remaining Romney alternatives.

“‘Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would make a powerful team against Barack Obama,’ wrote the adviser in an email.”

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“As we can see, Romney won roughly the same share of the vote in all four states [SC, GA, AL, MS] – something within a very narrow band of 26 percent and 30 percent of the vote. The real shift last night came from Santorum surging at the expense of Newt Gingrich.

“We can also see this when we break it down into ideological groupings, above all ‘very conservative’ voters…

“Here we see a similar pattern – Mitt Romney holding in a very narrow band (between 18 percent and 24 percent) while Rick Santorum has surged by about 15 points at the expense of Newt Gingrich, who has declined by 15 points

“From a bigger picture, these results confirm what the RealClearPolitics average has been saying for about a month: Rick Santorum has eclipsed Newt Gingrich in the battle to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.”

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“Some have suggested that deep in his heart Gingrich fashions himself a modern Winston Churchill, called to lead his country at a critical moment in its history. But history — using Alabama and Mississippi as its surrogates — has spoken and it has declared that Newt is decidedly not Churchill and that he won’t be president. At least not President of the United States.

“As The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis pointed out while calling for Gingrich to drop out, ‘if [Gingrich] truly believes Mitt Romney is a ‘Massachusetts moderate’ masquerading as a conservative, then he owes it to Republican voters to give former Sen. Rick Santorum a clean shot at wresting the nomination from him.’

“Tuesday night, Gingrich took the burn down the house strategy in refusing to get out. If he can’t win, he’ll torpedo Santorum’s chance of winning and intentionally or unintentionally give the nomination to his nemesis, Mitt Romney. Perhaps upon further reflection, he will put his ego aside and do the right thing by allowing the final two serious candidates standing to battle it out for the GOP nomination.”

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“In a half-filled convention center ballroom in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb, a mix of supporters and the merely curious turned out to see the candidate speak, some holding ‘Don’t believe the liberal media!’ signs, a fixture of his rallies, which on this day could have been echoing his criticism of Mitt Romney’s anointment as the inevitable nominee…

“Mr. Gingrich envisions an outcome in which, almost by force of personality and will, he is acclaimed the nominee at a contested convention in August despite failing to win the popular vote in more than a couple of states…

“‘The problem with being a fighter is sometimes they don’t know when to quit,” said Mr. Campfield, a state senator who switched allegiance to Mr. Santorum before he won Tennessee on Super Tuesday. ‘You don’t realize it’s better to bow out gracefully.'”

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