Last night provided a moment to Newt Gingrich that Rick Santorum managed to avoid. Santorum withdrew before a potentially embarrassing loss in Pennsylvania, keeping his credibility intact after a surprisingly successful run, which prompted most of the GOP to rally to Mitt Romney. Gingrich couldn’t take the hint and insisted that the race would change now that he had Romney all to himself. His campaign staked everything on a big win in Delaware, only hedging their bets slightly on the eve of the primary to say that a close second-place finish would be good enough to keep them in the race.
Gingrich finished in second place, but 29 points back at 56/27. And Gingrich was fortunate enough to come in second in Delaware; in the other four states in last night’s primaries, Gingrich actually finished in third place behind Ron Paul. In Rhode Island, Gingrich didn’t even get a thousand votes, as Romney and Paul split the state 63/24, respectively. Rarely has a campaign set expectations so high and had them blow up so spectacularly.
After watching the results, even Newt Gingrich sounded as though he’d gotten the hint, and dropped one of his own:
Following his five-state shutout Tuesday night, Newt Gingrich sent the strongest signal yet that he’s nearing the end of his tottering campaign.
“We’re going to look realistically at where we’re at,” Gingrich said at an election-night rally in North Carolina. “We are going to think carefully about how we can be the most helpful to this country.”
Even then, he still promised to campaign in North Carolina:
“I want to be vividly clear, we have 23 events here in North Carolina this week,” he said, in advance of that state’s May 8 primary. “We’re going to be at 23 events in North Carolina this week.”
Speaking of vividly clear, Gingrich spent the last few weeks campaigning in Delaware, hitting event after event, and it resulted in a 2-1 drubbing in the winner-take-all state of Delaware. North Carolina’s primary is proportional, which means that Gingrich would at best end up splitting the 55 delegates at stake, so a narrow victory won’t change the 700+ delegate lead Romney has over Gingrich. Romney will be close to 900 delegates at worst after Pennsylvania’s direct-election results are totalled, leaving him only 244 delegate away from a mathematical end to the primaries — and he has California (172 delegates), New Jersey (50 delegates) and Utah (40 delegates) in winner-take-all states where Gingrich can’t compete, let alone a likely large haul from Texas’ proportional primary with 155 delegates at stake, and nearly a dozen more states as well.
Gingrich did leave one more hint that reality is truly dawning:
Newt Gingrich on Tuesday hinted at a possible departure soon from the GOP presidential race, describing his upcoming role heading into the Republican convention in Tampa as that of a citizen rather than a candidate. …
Asked by reporters about his timeline for making his exit official, Gingrich indicated that he wouldn’t make an announcement before Sunday. Speaking later with a supporter, Gingrich said, “As a citizen, you can have all of my ideas on a regular basis – I’m not going to back off at all.”
Deep in debt and after blowing expectations with a crushing loss, it’s time for Gingrich to embrace the reality that he won’t be the Republican nominee. He’s not hurting Romney with his continued campaign; he’s only damaging his own credibility and financial future, especially with four third-place finishes behind Ron Paul. Time to go.
Update: Looks like it’s over, at least unofficially:
Following Romney’s clean sweep of all five primaries on Tuesday – including Delaware, where Gingrich had staked the remainder of his tattered campaign – the former House speaker said in a speech to the Gaston County GOP that “it’s pretty clear Governor Romney is going to be the nominee.”
“I think you have to at some point be honest with what’s happening in the real world, as opposed to what you’d like to have happened,” Gingrich said. “Governor Romney had a very good day yesterday. He got 67 [percent] in one state, and he got 63 in other, 62 in another. Now you have to give him some credit. I mean this guy’s worked six years, put together a big machine, and has put together a serious campaign.
“I think obviously that I would be a better candidate, but the objective fact is the voters didn’t think that,” Gingrich said. “And I also think it’s very, very important that we be unified.”
I’d assume that a formal concession will be made by the end of the week — and perhaps by the end of the day. If Gingrich gets behind Romney, the next step in unification would be to help Gingrich retire his debt, which Romney would probably consider a small cost to ending the nagging question of unity.
Update II: Fox News reports that Gingrich will officially concede on May 1, and will “more than likely” endorse Romney at the same time.