BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The question for Republican Newt Gingrich is not whether he will stay in the presidential race after Tuesday's primaries in Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii. The question is where he’ll take the campaign next.
The Gingrich campaign provided the latest answer, announcing plans to head to Illinois and Louisiana later this week even as most polls offered little certainty about how Tuesday’s contests would turn out. Gingrich, a former House speaker who represented Georgia, had predicted victories in nearby Alabama and Mississippi. But more recently he and his advisers have revised expectations to say that even a “strong” showing was enough to go on.
How Gingrich can keep going with little momentum and much doubt about his chances is uncertain. On Tuesday, for instance, the chairman of Alabama’s Republican Party, Bill Armistead, predicted in an interview on CNN that if Gingrich loses Mississippi and Alabama, “he’s out of the ball game.”
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said the former House speaker has his sites set on upcoming contests in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin and even California, the last of which doesn’t hold a vote until June. Hammond also said the campaign is planning a “floor whip operation” for the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August, planning to meet Gingrich’s oft-spoken promise to stay in the race to the convention.
“I’ve instructed the press corps to take down time now so they’re ready for the next month,” Hammond told reporters Tuesday.
Hammond dismissed questions about fundraising, saying Gingrich is raising enough money to advertise this week in both Mississippi and Alabama. However, both ad buys are on cable channels (less expensive than broadcast), and Hammond would not say how big the buys are.
Gingrich was scheduled to visit the Birmingham Zoo Tuesday afternoon, a favorite pastime of his. He traditionally spends primary day away from voting and politics. (Last week, on Super Tuesday, he flew to Huntsville to visit the National Space and Rocket Center). But threatening thunderstorms compelled his campaign to cancel the trip to the zoo.
Gingrich was scheduled to make one public appearance before voting ends Tuesday — with a speech to the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce in suburban Birmingham. Earlier in the day, his wife, Callista Gingrich, toured a cancer treatment center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“This is really very pleasant,” Callista Gingrich told her tour guides.
Gingrich has campaigned heavily in Alabama, speaking at length about opening up oil exploration and repeating his promise to reduce the price of gas below $2.50 a gallon. He has talked up his Southern roots, and he has poked fun at one of his leading rivals, Mitt Romney, for trying to appeal to Southerners.
“I want you to know as a Georgian, I understand grits,” Gingrich said. ”I even understand cheese grits. I even understand shrimp and grits. I think that gave you some sense of the degree to which governor Romney doesn’t fit being the southern candidate in this race.”
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