Plenty of people have told Newt Gingrich to get out of the Republican nomination race — in the media, on talk shows, and on blogs. The Washington Post runs a story today headlined, “More Republicans calling for Newt Gingrich to leave GOP race,” and sure enough, more of them are, although the Post notes that “[t]here is no sign Gingrich is listening.” Perhaps that’s because no one wants to tell Gingrich to his face to withdraw:
[Conservative activist Richard] Viguerie has no plans to make the case directly to Gingrich, and as of Wednesday, it was unclear whether anyone had. Several Republicans interviewed said there is a strong desire to give Gingrich the time he needs to make his own decision — and to afford him the respect due to a man who is considered a member of the family within the conservative movement. Santorum adviser John Brabender, for instance, said it is “premature” to talk about having conversations with the Gingrich camp — although he added that “we would be very interested in sitting down and talking, but that would be a decision for their campaign.”
One prominent conservative who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly said an effort is underway to ask Texas Gov. Rick Perry to urge Gingrich to step aside. But Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said Wednesday that the governor is grateful to two of his top supporters — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback — for sticking with him during his waning days in the race and for letting Perry decide when to withdraw.
Perry will give Gingrich the same courtesy, Sullivan said.
Gingrich and his team spent yesterday explaining his new strategy, which was to combine up with Rick Santorum to deny Mitt Romney a majority of delegates and force a brokered convention. The problem with that plan is that someone who only wins two or maybe three states won’t have a good case to make as the brokered choice at the convention. Gingrich couldn’t even carry the conservative, Southern states that should have been his to claim; Santorum leads him 3-2 in the South. If he wants the nomination through either the elections or a brokered convention, he needed to win those two states on Tuesday. If Gingrich just wants to deny Romney the nomination, he’d be better off backing Santorum and pulling out, and hope that his delegates go with Santorum at the convention. The Post notes that without those delegates, Santorum would have to win 66% of the remaining delegates to get the nomination outright, which is unlikely; with Gingrich’s delegates, that drops to 56.5%, still high but more realistic.
Most of Gingrich’s efforts have come through his super-PAC and its main benefactor, Sheldon Adelson. Yesterday we noted reports that Adelson has decided not to write any more checks for that effort, which would be fatal to Gingrich’s ability to stay on television and radio in states where he will compete in the future. USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich followed up on that with a report that the super-PAC has made no media buys after March 11th:
Rick Tyler, a spokesman for pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future, told MSNBC by staying in the race Gingrich would help prevent Romney from getting the 1,144 delegates he needs to become the Republican nominee, causing a contested convention. The strategy is steeped in complicated procedures, and involves the candidate trying to win the nomination on the convention floor by courting uncommitted delegates through multiple ballots.
The process could also get expensive, a fact which could hinder the Gingrich campaign if donors do not see a path to victory for him.
Asked by USA TODAY on Wednesday where the super PAC planned to invest next, Tyler said the group was still in the process of deciding. Winning Our Future has not reported any media buys since March 11.
Perry probably has the right idea. There are four more contests in the next nine days: Missouri (non-binding caucus), Puerto Rico, Illinois, and Louisiana. Gingrich’s team will concentrate on the last two and hope for a miracle, albeit a very unlikely one. After Louisiana there are no contests for the next ten days, a period in which Gingrich and his advisers can think clearly about their chances in the race and at a brokered convention, and whether Gingrich can do more in or out of the race. I would expect no decision until after Louisiana, but if Gingrich can’t win one of those four contests, expect to hear something shortly after the 24th. At that point, no one should have to tell Gingrich that it’s time to leave.