Newt Gingrich said again this morning that he plans to battle all the way to Tampa.
Asked on CBS’s This Morning “under what circumstances” he would end his campaign before the convention, Gingrich responded: “Probably none.” He told host Charlie Rose, “I’ll be with you in Tampa, Charlie,” adding, “I have 176,000 donors at Newt.org. They want me to stay in the race.”
On a later appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Gingrich said voters in Illinois were telling him to stay in the race. “I think the people who are supporting me want to have sort of a Reagan-like visionary, a big ideas candidate,” he said.
The latest Newt-related meme is that his presence in the race actually helps Santorum. Newt himself advanced this theory in a call-in to Laura Ingraham’s radio program, even as he insisted that he doesn’t have to cede the title of “the true conservative” to Santorum:
“My view on that is that the minute Romney has one opponent his Super PAC will drown that opponent in mud. That’s what happened to me in Iowa and Florida,” Gingrich said. “It will eventually happen to Santorum and I think it is actually to our net advantage to keep Romney divided.”
While Gingrich toned down hitting Santorum since losing both Mississippi and Alabama, on Thursday he said he didn’t have to concede to Santorum either.
“There are a lot of things I don’t agree with Santorum on. I don’t have an obligation to automatically salute as a conservative somebody who was in a leadership that ran up $1.7 trillion in debt,” Gingrich said.
All math aside, it’s really not in the best interest of Santorum or, for that matter, Romney or the GOP for Gingrich to stay in the race. So why is he really? It might be that Gingrich really is that determined to stop Romney at all costs, but a presidential campaign is expensive and exhausting. Would Gingrich carry on if he believed he had absolutely no chance of capturing the nomination at a contested convention? Given that Gingrich is Gingrich, I think he thinks he can still stage a comeback.
He’s clear-eyed enough to recognize that he doesn’t have a chance in Illinois, where polls show a clear two-man race between Romney and Santorum, so he’s forgoing it — and focused on Louisiana instead. The South, the South, the South. This time, though, he’s not emphasizing his Southern strategy. He’s talking instead about a “reset” of the race, a chance to recenter voters on the idea that they need a visionary — and he’s that guy.
“I am going to fine-tune my message to say that ‘without vision the people perish,’ ” Gingrich said Thursday, quoting Scripture while touring a manufacturing plant here. Gingrich’s trip to Illinois was essentially a layover for the campaign before heading to Louisiana, which has a primary more than a week away. …
Gingrich is hanging his latest hopes on the March 24 primary in Louisiana, where the former Georgia congressman is expected to drive some conservatives away from Santorum. He left Thursday night for the Bayou State, making room for his opponents, who are expected to campaign in Illinois this weekend.
“Louisiana is sort of halftime,” Gingrich said. “I want to see if we can’t reset this race around really big ideas and really big solutions and insist the American people have the chance to vote for a dramatically different future.”
On the trail, Gingrich continues to invoke Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. It strikes me now that both those leaders had their share of electoral failure before they had electoral success. Neither had particularly exemplary personal lives, either. The relevant question might not be: Will Gingrich drop out before the convention? It might be: Will Newt Gingrich ever drop out, in general? No matter what happens in this election or future ones, Gingrich, driven by his ideas, will still seek to market them. It’s an inspiring thing to behold, actually.