Gingrich Now Saying Alabama, Mississippi Are Not “Must Win”
Once again, Newt Gingrich appears to be saying he’ll stay in the race for the GOP nomination all the way to the convention:
ELLISVILLE, Miss. — Spurning calls for him to get out, Newt Gingrich insisted Friday that he’ll stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination even if he loses two Southern primaries next week.
“I think there’s a fair chance we’ll win,” the former House speaker told The Associated Press about the contests Tuesday in Alabama and Mississippi. “But I just want to set this to rest once and for all. We’re going to Tampa.”
Gingrich said he intended to campaign all the way to the Republican National Convention in August, regardless of whether he has won the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
His comments contradicted assertions by a key aide that Gingrich must win both states to remain viable.
Asked if he must win the pair, Gingrich replied: “No.”
Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for two decades, spent most of the week shuttling between Alabama and Mississippi, addressing hundreds at rallies across both states about his proposal to expand U.S. petroleum exploration and drive gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon.
He won a home field primary in Georgia, his only victory among the 10 states that voted earlier this week, and canceled a scheduled trip to Kansas, which holds caucuses Saturday, to maintain his focus on the Deep South. His only other win of the season came in South Carolina in January.
Gingrich has been under pressure from conservatives, including from allies and supporters of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, to quit the race and allow Santorum to challenge front-runner Mitt Romney unencumbered by competition for the votes of the Republican right.
Earlier this week, chief Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said his candidate needed to win every state in the band stretching from South Carolina to Texas.
But Gingrich contradicted his spokesman Friday and said he expects to outlast the socially conservative Santorum, a favorite of evangelical conservatives, as the preferred conservative challenger to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney. Many Republican voters view Romney as too moderate.
The thing about Gingrich is that it’s hard to see what kind of future he has in this race beyond next Tuesday’s contests, even if he wins them. He doesn’t have the resources to compete with Ronmney, or even Santorum, in large states like New York, Illinois, Tennessee, California, and the like, for example. And the argument that his continued presence in the race is hurting Santorum is starting to gain traction among conservatives. Santorum would still have almost no chance to win the nomination even if Newt left the race today, of course, but if the perception grows that he cost conservatives their chance at the nomination that’s not going to do much for his reputation going forward I would bet.