Newt Gingrich has never won a statewide race, not in his home state of Georgia or any caucus or primary. He came in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire. He didn’t win the Texas vote of 150 pastors. He has the highest negatives of any GOP contender. Compared to a former U.S. senator (Rick Santorum) and governors (Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry) he’s accumulated a minuscule number of votes in his political career. So naturally, he’s taken to telling all the other not-Romney’s to get out of the race.
As Michael Warren reported from the spin room after the debate, it is (not surprising for Gingrich) pretty nervy stuff:
Gingrich has [been] telling South Carolina conservatives that he’s the only conservative who can beat the “Massachusetts Moderate.” He has said that “any conservative who votes for anyone but Newt helps elect a moderate as the nominee.” So when he’s asked about the fact that Rick Santorum beat him in Iowa and essentially tied him in New Hampshire, Gingrich simply refuses to answer.
Santorum, meanwhile, has also arrived in the spin room, and he responds to Gingrich’s claim. “Well that’s really funny from the guy who’s lost two elections to me,” he scoffs. “I mean, here’s a guy that’s finished behind me in two elections, and all of the sudden, now a vote for me is a vote for Governor Romney.”
In the most recent polls, Gingrich is trailing Romney by double digits in South Carolina and is a distant second in Florida. Is it just as logical to assume that if Santorum got out of the race, most of his votes would go to Romney (who’s usually Santorum-backers’ second choice in polls) and this thing would be over in a flash?
But this is how Gingrich thinks of himself. He’s Churchill or Thatcher and he balanced the budget and helped create 11 million jobs. Glenn Kessler reminds us that his credit-grabbing isn’t really justified by the facts. For example, “Gingrich consistently pads the number of years he was responsible for the balanced budget. (There was a surplus that lasted four years, but Gingrich left Congress after the second year.)” And yet he wants to force Santorum out, suggesting maybe he can’t simply beat Santorum and Romney as well.
Gingrich, of course, is now saying he may not leave the race if he doesn’t win on Saturday (a strong possibility). That’s to be expected, especially if he does better than in the two previous contests. But I’m wondering: If Romney wins on Saturday where exactly does Gingrich think he can beat Romney (other than in Georgia)? I can’t think of another state that would be as hospitable to him. Santorum, on the other hand, is just getting warmed up with his blue-collar pitch and has a message that can translate beyond Christian conservatives.
It is not news that Gingrich is arrogant. But at some point his boastfulness becomes other-worldly, not to mention downright obnoxious.