03.06.12

Super Tuesday: Newt Gingrich’s Georgia Win

Newt Gingrich won big in his home state of Georgia. But his rambling speech won’t help his road ahead. Patricia Murphy on the pressure for him to exit the race.

Newt Gingrich basked in the glory of victory Tuesday night, even if it was only for his home state of Georgia. Reveling in a huge 23-point win over Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in Georgia, the former House speaker gleefully painted himself as the future GOP nominee and the only one ready to take on President Barack Obama and win.

“We’re going to go on to Tampa and win the nomination!” Gingrich told a rowdy crowd in his former House district in Cobb County, Ga., at the same hotel where he declared victory for the House Republican takeover in 1994.

“The American people want a chance to have hope again,” he said. “And tomorrow will bring another chapter.”

A nearly giddy Gingrich ripped into Romney and Obama, declaring the former devoid of ideas and the latter’s energy policy “deliciously incoherent.” But Gingrich made no mention of the other nine states voting Tuesday night that were delivering a relentless stream of bad news for him and his dwindling hopes for winning the GOP nomination even as his speech was carried live on all three cable networks.

As late as Tuesday afternoon, Gingrich’s aides said they hoped for strong showings in Tennessee and Oklahoma, along with a healthy vote in Ohio to demonstrate Gingrich’s broader appeal. But with Santorum and Romney finishing one-two in all three states and dividing the other six between them, it became more and more difficult to see where Gingrich could go to make up ground with the map that remains.

Maybe it was the nostalgia, or maybe it was the denial, or maybe it was the multiple near-death experiences he’s plowed past before in this campaign, or maybe it was the not-insignificant fact that Gingrich remains ahead of Santorum in the delegate count, but neither Gingrich nor any person in his camp Tuesday would acknowledge plans other than forging ahead toward November.

“This campaign is far from over,” his wife, Callista, declared as she introduced her husband Tuesday night.

Rick Santorum Ohio
Charles Ommanney for Newsweek

Gingrich acknowledged his uphill climb, but gave no hint he thought he would not eventually win in the end. “I’m the tortoise, I’m just taking one step at a time.”

Taking one step at a time is fine, but the real reason Gingrich isn’t bolting for the exits is his money—just enough small-dollar donations to cover his campaign’s operating costs, and just enough of Sheldon Adelson’s fortune to keep the super PAC supporting Gingrich on the air running television ads for their candidate.

“One of the benefits of not being Romney is we’re not this huge organization,” R.C. Hammond, Gingrich’s spokesman and adviser, told the Daily Beast. “So we can keep going.”

Hammond said Gingrich has “zero reason” to leave the race and instead plans to go on to Alabama and Mississippi to hunt for votes in the Deep South, along with a swing through evangelical-heavy Kansas. As long as the pro-Gingrich super PAC stays on the air, he added, “We’re fine.”

But even Republicans supporting Gingrich says they’re worried about the length of the never-ending campaign and the tone that the candidates had taken against each other. Although Gingrich has stuck to a mostly positive message about bringing down gas prices over the last two weeks, Romney and Santorum have run ads eviscerating Gingrich for a series of offenses that fact-checkers deemed to be false.

“One of the benefits of not being Romney is we’re not this huge organization,” R.C. Hammond, Gingrich’s spokesman and adviser, told the Daily Beast. “So we can keep going.”

“It makes me worried about November, it really does,” said Wayne Hill, a former county commissioner in Georgia who voted for Gingrich. “I don’t know that I feel confident that we can win the race, but I think it’s time for a change.”

Brent Seyler, a small-business owner in Gwinnett County, said the ads against Gingrich in Georgia had actually brought him around to support the former speaker. “I’m not a fan of mudslinging, and the other candidates so far have worried about who’s doing what and who’s not doing what,” he said, adding, “I was a fan of Newt’s when he was in the House.”

Although the math to the 1,144 delegates needed for the nomination looks close to impossible and Romney and Santorum seem to be looking ahead to a two-man race sans Gingrich, Hammond insisted his boss isn’t going anywhere.

“He’s a tough SOB. I’ve seriously never met anybody tougher,” Hammond said. “There is nothing that stops him.”