Oh my stars. It’s like LBJ losing Walter Cronkite, or President Obama losing David Brooks. Bill Kristol, who has made allowances for Newt Gingrich and turned a blind eye toward many of his outrageous antics, has apparently had it with the former Speaker. (The two have known each other for a quarter century and, each in his own way, served the conservative movement in defeating HillaryCare.)

In a firm voice he tells Gingrich he’s not the guy to keep Mitt Romney from the nomination. Kristol takes Gingrich to task for suggesting he and not Rick Santorum is the only one who can beat Romney. Kristol writes:

In the first actual vote held this year, Rick Santorum came from behind to double Newt Gingrich’s vote in Iowa, and then in New Hampshire, Santorum fought Gingrich to a draw. It’s pretty nervy — even by Newtonian standards! — for Gingrich to say that mathematics requires voters to abandon Santorum for Gingrich.

He comes close to saying, although not quite, that maybe it’s time for Newt to get off the stage and allow Santorum a shot at the nomination.

With his signature deadpan humor, Kristol concludes: “Newt Gingrich should never be underestimated. Perhaps he could even recover from a -29.5 percent unfavorability rating. But it’s quite a stretch for Gingrich to claim that he has an obviously better chance to win than Rick Santorum, either against Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.” (My emphasis.)

Gingrich has often embarrassed his friends and supporters by his antics (think how Sheldon Adelson feels about those anti-private equity ads). But you can abuse others’ loyalties for only so long. I suspect that there are many others like Kristol who are prepared to abandon the sinking Gingrich campaign. Santorum should hold tight — there may be time to rally these voters to his side.

Right Turn will be back after the debate with analysis and winners and losers.