The famously conservative paper’s endorsement was a priceless gift. The former House Speaker proceeded to squander it.

In doing so, Gingrich revealed that he learned all the wrong lessons from his campaign’s collapse this summer and none of the right ones from his remarkable comeback.

Instead of seizing the moment and making an aggressive case for why the contest was now a two-man race between a movement conservative and flip-flopping moderate — a unique opportunity afforded by the endorsement’s implicit-but-unmistakable critique of Mitt Romney in his firewall state — Gingrich fell back to his familiar habits, a routine marked by too much self-assurance and not enough discipline.

Between that and some other key factors — among them, Romney’s super PAC blitzkrieg and his own weak fundraising — a campaign that seemed on the cusp of stealing the nomination barely a month ago now faces an ignominious fourth place finish or worse. And the dramatic arc of the final chapter in his political career suddenly seems a lot less triumphant.

“This has been a great example of best of Newt and worst of Newt,” said Dan Meyer, his Chief of Staff as speaker, of Gingrich’s December.