Gingrich: Alabama and Mississippi aren't must-wins for me

Perhaps the fact that the question had to be asked at all speaks for Newt Gingrich’s precarious status in the race:

Spurning calls for him to get out, Newt Gingrich insisted Friday that he’ll stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination even if he loses two Southern primaries next week.

“I think there’s a fair chance we’ll win,” the former House speaker told The Associated Press about the contests Tuesday in Alabama and Mississippi. “But I just want to set this to rest once and for all. We’re going to Tampa.”

Gingrich said he intended to campaign all the way to the Republican National Convention in August, regardless of whether he has won the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

His comments contradicted assertions by a key aide that Gingrich must win both states to remain viable.

Asked if he must win the pair, Gingrich replied: “No.”

On one level, this is standard campaign spin. No candidate will set himself up for failure by imposing a public timeline on his withdrawal.  It would make him as serious as, say, a Commander in Chief who declared that he would only fight a war to a certain calendar date.  It’s a recipe for a crisis in confidence on the part of voters, and especially on the part of donors.

Realistically, however, the campaign aide has it right.  Gingrich has only won two contests in this primary fight, one of which was his own nominal home state, and both of which are in the South.  He came in third in the only other Southern state to hold a primary (Tennessee), and he’s not even strongly competing outside of the region.  If he can’t win Alabama or Mississippi, there aren’t many paths for Gingrich to the nomination — and if he loses both, especially to Mitt Romney, there aren’t any at all.  His only hope in losing both will be that Rick Santorum wins them instead of Romney, and then unexpectedly implodes immediately afterward.

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