Newt Gingrich has made visiting local zoos a staple of his campaign touring — no doubt he feels he’s in his natural wonkish habitat posing for photo ops amongst the flora and fauna. This morning in North Carolina, he took his final donor-funded trip to the zoo with the press — NBC’s Andrew Rafferty provided a (pretty hilarious) play-by-play via his Twitter stream (h/t Twitchy):

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Newt Gingrich’s decision to wait a week to officially drop out of the presidential race was kind of a non sequitur (but then, it fits with Newt’s normally quizzical attitude of  “you need to get on my level” pomposity, so… wash). He’s been making the final campaign rounds this week at some fun events, and has expressed his determination to continue to help the GOP defeat Barack Obama in November:

“We’re going to stay very, very active,” Gingrich told supporters in North Carolina on Wednesday. “We’re working out the details of our transition and will have information for the press over the next couple of days.

“I am committed to this party,” he added. “I am committed to defeating [President] Obama. We’re will try to find ways to be helpful.”

Here’s what you can do to help the Republican party, Newt: don’t. You overstayed your welcome in the presidential race by a long shot, frequently looked absurd, and constantly undercut the GOP’s credibility. I lamented about this when it happened, but the day that the “true conservative” Newt Gingrich committed the one unforgivable political sin — throwing free enterprise under the bus — was among the most disillusioning I’ve yet experienced (but… I’m still young. I’m sure I can look forward to plenty more of that in the future, womp womp.) While I’ll admit that he had several shining, brilliant moments of insight when even I cheered, the conservative cause should be all too glad to see the back of him. Tim Carney, at least, seems to agree:

Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign — based on absurd promises, fueled by identity politics and riddled with dishonesty — accomplished little besides undermining the cause of free enterprise. It was the most damaging assault on American conservativism since the second term of George W. Bush.

Gingrich tried to change the meaning of “free enterprise,” “socialist” and “conservative” to justify his own corporate-welfare lobbying and to attack Romney’s career as a capitalist. By subverting the language, he weakened the cause of limited government and free enterprise, confusing the conservative base and the news media — and eroding the theoretical framework on which free-market arguments are made.

Also, by subjugating policy to politics and by shooting from the hip, Gingrich handed Democrats rhetorical ammunition to use against Romney and any Republican who makes a free-market argument.

Mitt Romney may not be the conservative champion we’ve all been waiting for (and how!), but in an election year in which the economy needs to be the primary issue and the very fiscal future of the United States hangs in the balance, what America needs right now is a businessman who truly understands and respects free markets as a powerful force for worldwide prosperity, wealth, happiness, efficiency, innovation, and all manner of good things that big government can only achieve at a sub-par level, if at all. With ‘conservatives’ like Newt Gingrich, who needs liberals? If he does continue to act as a conservative voice in an attempt to ‘help’ the Republican cause, let’s hope he uses his wonkishness for good and keeps the damaging blather on lockdown.