Explaining Newt Gingrich’s never-ending presidential campaign

at 12:35 PM ET, 03/28/2012

The news broke last night: Newt Gingrich had traded out campaign managers, slimmed his staff by a third and was now focusing on calling delegates to the Republican National Convention rather than campaigning across the country.


Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks in Annapolis, Md., Tuesday, March 27, 2012, after a a visit to Maryland State House. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The former House Speaker and his (remaining) aides insisted that this was all part of a grand plan to make former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney “earn” the nomination. “Until Mitt Romney has 1,144 [delegates] locked down, solidly, I owe it to the people that have helped me over the past year to represent their views and their values,” explained Gingrich in a radio interview with WTOP in Washington, DC today.

“I’ve learned to never say never again and again about Newt,” said Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich aide who runs the Winning Our Future super PAC that is supportive of the former House Speaker. “He says he will march on to Tampa so we will march on.”

While Tyler’s loyalty is admirable, make no mistake: This is the end of the Gingrich campaign. He is out of money (or close to it) with few prospects to raise more. Polling suggests he will finish behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the April 3 Wisconsin primary; he already placed fourth in the Illinois primary last week. He lacks any obvious regional or ideological base in the party. This is what the end looks like.

“Newt’s capacity for self-delusion knows no bounds and so rather than suspending the campaign, he has developed this ‘big-choice convention’ strategy which is nothing more than a refusal to admit there are no dates on the calendar in which he can come in any better than third and there might be some primaries where he loses to Ron Paul — again,” said Rich Galen, a one-time aide to Gingrich. “No matter what he chooses to call it, the rest of us are calling it ‘over’.”

Why is Gingrich refusing to bow to what looks-- to everyone not on his payroll — like the inevitable? A few reasons.

1. Gingrich genuinely believes that Romney is not conservative enough to be the Republican nominee and wants to spend the next few months trying to drag the former Massachusetts governor more in line with his own beliefs, which, he naturally thinks, are more representative of what the base wants.

2. Gingrich’s campaign has, from the start (or close to it), been something of a vanity effort. From the time Gingrich parted ways with his senior staff in the summer of 2011 until today, he has done and said whatever he (and his wife Callista) want. The zoo trips, the focus on space, the tour of the cherry blossoms — all of it speaks to a strategy, if you can call it that, revolving around what the candidate feels like doing or saying on any given day.

The people he keeps around him are less advisers in the traditional sense of that word than they friends and companions on his rollicking journey around the country. What Newt wants, Newt gets. And that seems to be true when it comes to his decision to kind of, sort of stay in the race.

3. Newt thinks of himself as not just another politician. (You would have picked up on this fact if you listened to him speak for more than five minutes.) Normal politicians drop out of races when they run out of money and widespread support. Not Newt.

He sees himself as a visionary who, whether or not voters realize it, has the big ideas needed to fix the big problems in the country. To simply walk away before he aired those views to as many people as possible is simply unfathomable to Gingrich.

Regardless of whether Gingrich thinks he is out of the race (he doesn’t), it doesn’t change the political reality (he is). When the delegates gather at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in August, they will nominate Romney — barring some sort of cataclysmic event.

And there’s nothing Gingrich can do about it.

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