The odds are now stacked highly against Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. So the former House Speaker’s candidacy may end up looking like that of Mike Huckabee in 2008, Politico
The former Arkansas governor, who ran as a conservative alternative to John McCain and Mitt Romney, won an early state (Iowa), just as Gingrich did (South Carolina). Then Huckabee conquered several Southern states on Super Tuesday, in what turned out to be a consolation prize.
Gingrich also is likely to fare well in Southern states on Super Tuesday, March 6, Politico reports. Like Huckabee, he has flourished with his rhetorical skills. But the similarities end there. Huckabee soldiered on in the campaign only another month after Super Tuesday and ran a positive campaign that didn’t bother the ultimate nominee McCain.
Gingrich is dead set on staying in the race until the convention, though dwindling financial support may put a damper on his plans. And he most definitely won’t be running a positive campaign against Romney. Over the weekend, Gingrich branded the former Massachusetts governor as a liar who supports abortion and taxes, is a tool of the GOP establishment, and a favorite of liberal billionaire George Soros.
Gingrich said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show, “Our goal is to get to Super Tuesday, where we’re in much more favorable territory.” By the end of the Texas primary, scheduled for April 3 but likely to be delayed over a redistricting dispute, he hopes to be “very, very competitive in the delegate count.”
“Even if he should string together a series of wins in Dixie, the former House speaker increasingly appears consigned to Huckabee’s fate, in which a handful of midseason victories does more to reinforce the candidate’s narrow appeal among cultural conservatives than to spark a comeback,” Politico states.
And Huckabee had an advantage over Gingrich. When the former Baptist preacher scored his Southern surge, he was running against two moderates in McCain and Romney. Gingrich has to worry about another conservative — Santorum — who like Gingrich, has pledged to stay in the race for the long haul.
Santorum will likely attract many religious and social conservatives whose support Gingrich needs to catch Romney. “It’s just not open-field running between Mitt and the anti-Mitt,” Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, who is chief deputy whip in the House and neutral in the presidential race, told Politico.
Santorum’s continued presence in the race may turn out to be Romney’s greatest gift, as the two conservatives split support between them, allowing him to chalk up plurality victories in state after state.
The new proportional rules for delegate selection that Gingrich sees as a boon to his campaign could in fact be a bane, Politico points out. The proportional system will work against him in Southern states where he has a good chance of earning the most votes, such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Many of the proportional states allocate their delegates by congressional district. That could hurt Gingrich because of Romney’s strength in urban and suburban areas, where voters are generally more moderate.
“The proportional system really does make it hard to play catch-up,” Matt Seyfang, a veteran Democratic political operative, told Politico. “There’s no way he gets to 1,144 [delegates] strictly on the South.”
Gingrich is counting on doing well in Texas. But that, too, is a proportional state, which mutes the value of a victory in the number of votes cast. Moreover, while Texas offers 155 delegates, five Northeastern states favorable to Romney will provide 231 delegates on April 24 — New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
Later this spring, New Jersey, California and Utah hold their primaries. All of them are winner-take-all, and all are likely to go for Romney.
“You will see some bigger states in April through June that will put Mitt over the top,” Mike DuHaime, who ran Rudy Giuliani’s campaign and is a former Republican National Committee political director, told Politico.
Gingrich, who is low on cash, will need plenty of money to compete on Super Tuesday, and plenty more money to compete beyond then. If he’s not putting some significant victories on the board, that will be difficult.
“At some point the super PACs won’t be willing to keep weighing in,” said Rep. Roskam. “They don’t want to throw good money after bad.”
If Gingrich’s competitive position collapses but he insists on staying in the campaign anyway, he may serve more as a critic of Romney than anything else. Gingrich promises to wage a campaign on behalf of “people power” against “money power.”
That would make Gingrich more like Pat Buchanan in 1992 than Mike Huckabee in 2008.
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