When you are losing a critical state by double digits, your negative ratings are sky high and both the media and your opponents are shredding you on both character and policy grounds, you might get testy. And if you are Newt Gingrich, whose never been known to take criticism gracefully, you might appear unhinged and frantic.

Gingrich’s rant that his poor showing in Florida is all the doing of the “establishment” has become comical. It’s the equivalent of the Howard Dean “scream” — a perfect metaphor for an angry and unsettled candidate who knows he’s losing it (in both senses of “losing it”).

He’s down by double digits in the latest batch of Florida polls. All “establishment” voters? Michelle Malkin, the hard-as-nails conservative blogger, endorsed Rick Santorum while ripping Gingrich, arguing:

Many grass-roots conservatives were awakened to Newt’s double-talk and double-dealing during the NY-23 race. Inconvenient truth: Newt’s transgressions are not from decades ago. It’s not ancient history. It’s here and now. Readers of this blog know the truth: It’s not just “the GOP establishment” that’s repulsed by Gingrich’s combination of moral baggage and K Street/Beltway culture of corruption. It’s the very grass-roots that Gingrich’s cheerleaders purport to represent. . . .

Lest we forget, this election is not about choosing a showboat candidate to run against John King or Juan Williams or Wolf Blitzer.

It’s not about “raging against” some arbitrarily defined GOP “machine.”

For many grass-roots conservatives across the country, Romney and Gingrich are the machine.

Are we to believe Malkin is now part of the “establishment”? Puleez.

Peter Wehner shares my disgust with the name calling and excuse-mongering. He disputes Gingrich’s notion that the “establishment” is against him because it is afraid of “fundamental change”:

The single most important idea, when it comes to fundamentally changing Washington, is the budget plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan last April. When most massive-scale-of-change conservatives were defending Ryan’s plan against scorching criticisms from the left, Gingrich described the plan as an example of ‘right-wing social engineering.’ It was Gingrich, not the rest of us, who was counseling caution, timidity, and an unwillingness to shape (rather than follow) public opinion. . . .So much for Mr. Fundamental Change.

Instead of sticking to the issues Gingrich now has taken to calling his nemesis a “liar.” It’s the excuse for losing the most recent debate. It’s the excuse for losing Florida. How in the world would he hope to beat President Obama in the fall?

He can’t even agree to a debate with media moderators. He’s gone from relishing a fight with every debate moderator to hiding under the covers from them.

His attacks on Mitt Romney have gotten loonier by the day. The latest is that Romney denied kosher meals to Medicare patients while he was governor of Massachusetts. According to the Romney camp, he issued numerous vetoes during his tenure for cost-cutting measures and restored funding for the kosher meals. The New York Post backs up Romney’s account: “The Massachusetts Legislature approved an amendment to restore the $600,000 to finance the kosher meals allowing a ‘most vulnerable segment of our population’ to ‘enjoy a special dignity,’ according to the Jewish Community Council.” This takes Mediscare tactics to a new, even lower level. Andrea Saul, Romney spokeswoman, emailed me:

It’s sad to see Speaker Gingrich lashing out in a desperate attempt to try and save his floundering campaign. Speaker Gingrich will say anything to distract voters from the fact that he suffered an unprecedented ethics reprimand, was forced to pay a $300,000 penalty, and resigned in disgrace at the hands of his own party. His record is one of failed and unreliable leadership and simply one Americans can’t risk.

In sum, Gingrich in the last few day has become increasingly rattled, desperate and angry. As Stephen Hayes observes, “Think of Obama as a bigger, richer, tougher Romney. If Gingrich is helpless in the face of Romney’s attacks, why would voters think he can beat Obama?” At some point it is no longer about winning for Gingrich, but about devising an explanation that leaves him a the valiant victim, and perhaps the inheritor of the Tea Party crown. We know Americans don’t want a helpless whiner a president. But will the Tea Party eventually get sick of his fixation on elite persecution?

Frankly, conservatives are supposed to be in favor of a candidate who believes in personal responsibility and is ready to undo the damage wrought by Obama. But right now Gingrich is more about “Not my fault!” than “Fundamental change.” Romney has gotten in his head, and rendered him a political basketcase. Even Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry maintained their wits and their dignity in defeat. Gingrich, however, has shown himself incapable of withstanding the heat of a presidential election in the New Media environment. It is a good thing Republicans found this out now, and not in the fall.