Newt Gingrich isn’t leaving the race anytime soon. If the name of the game now is to deprive Mitt Romney of the 1,144 delegates he needs to win the nomination, why shouldn’t Gingrich hang around until the convention to get in on the smoke-filled-room negotiations?
Now there is an interesting debate as to whether, by staying in, Gingrich helps or hurts Romney. On one hand, by continuing to divide the most conservative segment of the base with Rick Santorum, he suppresses Santorum’s vote. But recall: If the aim is not for Santorum to win 1,144 but to keep Romney from doing so, it doesn’t matter if the not-Romney vote goes to Santorum or to Gingrich.
In fact, Scott Conroy argues: “If Gingrich were to drop out, various polls show that Santorum would garner the majority of the former speaker’s support. Nonetheless, in a two-man race with Romney, the math is more difficult for Santorum, not less. Romney figures to win enough of the delegates Gingrich otherwise would have taken to prevent Santorum from overtaking him.” Indeed, Fox polling of a head-to-head matchup between Romney and Santorum shows that Romney gets 49 percent of the vote, a larger net share of the vote (and the delegates) than he enjoys with Gingrich in the race.
The only real way in which Gingrich’s presence in the race hurts Santorum is that he provides a good excuse for Romney not to engage in one-on-one debates with (and thereby giving free airtime to) Santorum. That’s a rather minor and indirect benefit, however, since Romney would not, in all likelihood, debate Santorum even if Gingrich dropped out.
In sum, Gingrich is not going anywhere for now. Santorum’s super PAC should stop trying to chase him out. Not only does it make the Santorum camp look like a bunch of whiners, but Gingrich’s exit more likely than not would only accelerate its man’s demise.