Hmmm: Gingrich cancels all campaign appearances in North Carolina next week; Update: Staying in, says spokesman; Update: NC events back on

He’s never wavered from his position that he’ll stay in the race until Romney clinches a majority of delegates, but the unspoken caveat to that is “provided I can afford it.” Can he still?

There is increased speculation Friday evening about the political future of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Sources told NewsChannel 36 Gingrich has canceled all of his appearances in North Carolina next week.

Gingrich was scheduled to make multiple appearances throughout the state, including a visit to Lincoln Charter School in Denver next Wednesday. Fourth graders planned to present him with an American history project…

The Gingrich campaign is reportedly millions of dollars in debt.

He’s still getting Secret Service protection at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money per day for reasons no one quite understands. One theory: “Staff members thought it was ridiculous too, and just another example of Newt’s arrogance and self-importance.” If you missed it yesterday, read Molly Ball in the Atlantic making the case that the campaign has ended up being a total professional disaster for Gingrich. It’s not just that he’s become a figure of ridicule, getting bit by a penguin during a visit to a zoo while Romney is preparing for the general election, it’s that his nonprofit org and his for-profit advocacy group have both shut down in the meantime. Hard to argue with the proposition that he’s pressed on too long, at least, but I don’t think running was a complete mistake. The ridicule notwithstanding, his profile is higher than it’s been at any time since he resigned as Speaker. Once the primary ends and he lies low for a few months, he can rise from the ashes in the fall as the elder statesman who refused to say die even as the entire establishment turned against him. He’ll earn grudging respect for that, and he’ll probably give a rousing speech at the convention playing attack dog for Romney against Obama. Then he can go to CNN and be a Carville-esque “insider who’s seen it all” wise man/political analyst. Not a terrible outcome. Now all he needs to do is figure out how to, er, pay off all that debt.

Since we’re on the subject of minor campaign mysteries, your exit question: Should we read anything into this? I ask only because they’ll be in Pennsylvania, not Florida, so it’s not obvious to me why Romney would call on Rubio there instead of, say, Pat Toomey.

Update: Newt’s spokesman told the NYT today that he’s neither quitting nor giving up his Secret Service agents, but it’s unclear if he told them that before or after the North Carolina events were canceled. Maybe the NC decision is a late-breaking one?

The Daily Caller sought comment from a taxpayer group, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, which said Mr. Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, should recognize the importance of saving money.

David Williams, president of the year-old Taxpayer Protection Alliance, reaffirmed that view in an interview on Friday.

“We really don’t begrudge a presidential candidate having security,” he said. “But even Gingrich is referring to his campaign in the past tense. Why not end the taxpayer expense that goes with it?”

Update: Now Gingrich’s spokesman says the NC trip is still on and that the cancellation is a “communications glitch.” According to the new FEC filings, his campaign owes $4.3 million.