What can a candidate do to raise cash when donations begin to dry up? Seize every opportunity to merchandise the campaign, it seems. National Journal reports that Newt Gingrich has taken the standard grip-and-grin ritual after stump speeches and turned it into a revenue source, a report I’ve confirmed with the campaign:
In a sign that his campaign is in need of fresh funds, Newt Gingrich on Monday began charging $50 to have a photograph taken with him following a campaign speech to Republican groups here in the northernmost part of the state.
It was the first time that the former House speaker has charged those attending one of his public speaking events to pose for a photograph with him. Lately, a member of his campaign staff has been snapping photos of any interested attendee and later posting them online at the campaign’s website, newt.org.
On Monday night, those paying for a photograph were also told they could find their photos on Gingrich’s website, after they had filled out a form providing their credit card information.
I assume these sales still count as tax-deductible contributions in the same way that t-shirt sales do, unless someone tells me differently, so point-of-sale and other tax issues probably don’t apply. What does apply is a sense of desperation. Gingrich keeps insisting that he will go all the way to the convention, or at least not until Romney gets 1144 delegates, whichever comes first. However, Gingrich looks increasingly irrelevant to that question. Not only did he finish in third place in Louisiana, in the South where his strategy rests, he came away without a single delegate.
Let’s look forward at the schedule in April. We have three winner-take-all primaries on the 3rd coming up next, in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington DC. Gingrich isn’t expected to be competitive in any of these. Missouri has another non-binding caucus on the 21st, where Rick Santorum has been strong, and then we have New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware on the 24th. In which of these states will Gingrich even manage to win a delegate, let alone compete for the lead?
Newt Gingrich has been a valuable member of the Republican Party for many years. He gave this campaign his best effort, and helped focus other candidates on the message. It’s time for Gingrich to get off the campaign trail and look for other ways to contribute. This interregnum between Louisiana and the April 3rd primaries is a good time for Gingrich to make the transition.