Newt bows out: “Suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship”

He leaves with lots of debt and good humor:

“I’m cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space,” he remarked. “My wife has pointed out to me approximately 219 times, give or take three, that moon colony was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign. I thought frankly in my role as providing material for Saturday Night Live, it was helpful.”

“This is not a trivial area,” Gingrich said of space. “This is a fundamental question about whether we’re still a country that dreams and hat goes out to pursue great adventure and that has the courage to say to young people yes you ought to go into math and science because there’s a wonderful future doing really important things. I happen to think that’s a better future than metamorphine and cocaine and I’m going to argue for a romantic American future of doing things that matter, that get to the human spirit.”

No official endorsement of Romney today, as Ed noted this morning, but this non-endorsement endorsement reflects the sentiments of, oh, I’d guess 85 percent of the conservative base:

“This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan,” he pointed out. “This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history.” Romney, Gingrich added, was also “60,000 times” more knowledgeable about how to spur job creation in the private sector than Obama.

Romney issued a statement within the last few hours praising Gingrich for bringing “creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life.” The irony of Gingrich’s campaign is that, because his role as a prominent pol ended so long ago, he’s thought of as a Republican dinosaur — and yet his strategy dispensed with old-fashioned conventional wisdom about what it takes to win. Everyone knew Romney was running and everyone knew that Romney would have a formidable organization and financial resources. The attack-ad carpet-bombing strategy that stopped Newt cold before Iowa and then won Florida for Mitt was, in other words, eminently foreseeable. And yet, aside from recruiting Sheldon Adelson to bankroll his Super PAC, Newt never seemed prepared to do much to counter those advantages. His game plan, I think, was to utterly dominate the debates and hope that the grassroots anti-Romney response would be so overwhelming that money and organization wouldn’t much matter. Through sheer force of personality and the favor of destiny, he’d neutralize Romney’s structural advantages and sweep to the nomination. That strategy was good enough to boost him to the top of the national polls not once but twice, but Mitt’s Super PAC ended up able to tamp down those surges almost at will with attack-ad spending. Maybe that’s how it had to be — there just weren’t enough wealthy donors out there willing to take a chance on Gingrich, whether because (a) he’d made enemies of them in the past at some point, (b) they feared giving big money to a candidate who might well implode eventually, and/or (c) they preferred Romney for reasons of inevitability or electability. Still, it’s odd to me even now that an old-school politician like Newt whose intelligence is respected even by his enemies would have had so many organizational problems from the very beginning. Good organization was the only way to have a fighting chance against Romney and yet it was always one of Newt’s problems. Odd.

That said, he seemed to enjoy the process to the very end, which is endearing and a comforting thought given how much he owes. Go read this piece by former Gingrich press secretary Rich Galen insisting that Newt will be fine. Two clips for you here, one of the farewell presser and the other, for Newt critics, via Mediaite of Shep Smith and Ed Rendell wondering how much damage Newt did to his legacy by holding on to the bitter end. As I say, read Galen on that. Answer: Probably not much.

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