But Gingrich, who must contend with the sometimes complicated Republican National Committee rules as he seeks to amass delegates, sees a hitch that could catapult him to the top spot.
“Mitt Romney doesn’t have 1,144 delegates,” he said, referring to the number necessary to clinch the nomination. “There is no sign yet that he is guaranteed getting 1,144. For some reason, everybody in the establishment is chanting that [former senator Rick] Santorum and I should quit. Well, Romney has to earn this. It’s not going to be given to him. And we have every right to run.”
In switching from a more conventional primary calendar strategy, Gingrich is acknowledging the obvious: With victories in just two states, and drubbings in several others — including Louisiana — the former congressman from Georgia may be out of chances for victory.
“I think you have to respond to reality, and we’ve had, you know, the cash flow was shorter than we’d like it to be,” he said. “So we’re doing the appropriate things to be able to campaign.”
Gingrich’s new course, built on keeping earned delegates in his column and swaying others, will require the kind of message discipline and organization that he has not often displayed. The shift has led to questions about what, exactly, he is seeking by staying in the race and whether he is tacitly acknowledging that his campaign will soon be over.
“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 former Gingrich aide. “No matter what he chooses to call it, the rest of us are calling it ‘over.’ ”
During the past few weeks, Gingrich’s campaign has been increasingly marginal in the debate about the nomination. In the South, where the candidate had hoped to revive his flagging operation, Santorum soundly beat him, edging him out among conservatives and evangelicals. Santorum and his aides have watched polls that they say suggest that a weakened Gingrich has benefited their team. But they have mostly stopped short of repeated calls for Gingrich to get out. Aides describe the relationships between Santorum and Gingrich and their staffs as friendly, and acknowledge that there have been conversations between the two camps about their common desire to stop Romney.