Going, Going, Gingrich

Former Speaker of the House is scaling back his campaign as he focuses on a new strategy: calling up delegates directly to convince them to nominate him as the US Republican candidate for president.


    The word most critics use about Newt Gingrich is arrogant.

    The former Speaker of the US House of Representatives wears the label easily.

    The self appointed "best debater in the Republican Party" believes he has an exceptional mind, is able to think big and is the best qualified man around at the moment to be President of the United States.

    His run at the nomination hasn't been simple. He launched his campaign last summer and then lost most of his senior campaign staff, who thought that while he was off enjoying a Greek cruise with his wife, perhaps he wasn't fully committed to winning.

    Strong debate performances helped throw him to the front of the Republican field.  He could boast two certain qualifications to the party faithful: he was a conservative and he wasn't Mitt Romney.  

    With little financial backing, the free TV exposure of the debates also helped him enormously.  

    He failed to make an impact in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, though, and it looked as if his time was up.  However, two more debate performances, and a real lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney was the fuel for another comeback.

    He won in South Carolina - traditionally a significant signpost in the nominating process.  Since then, however, he has failed to do much else. He was well beaten in the next primary in Florida, under a barrage of negative advertising slating his record in Congress. He only recorded his next win in his home state of Georgia.  He banked on a "southern strategy" to help him, but he lost the contests in Alabama and Mississippi.  

    Rick Santorum, who has established himself as the new Conservative favourite, suggested Gingrich should get out. He refused, pledging to continue until the Republican Party Convention in Florida in August.

    The people who fund political campaigns want to back winners, however, and Newt Gingrich is barren territory. In the last reporting period, his campaign had more debt than cash on hand.  And there is no sign things are going to get better.

    That's why he has had to drastically scale back his campaign.  He has cut a third of his campaign staff.  He's asked his campaign director to stand down to be replaced.  And he is reducing his public appearances and travel schedule. First to go: a planned sweep through North Carolina.

    The announcement would normally mark the end of a campaign.  But this is Newt Gingrich.

    The former history professor is launching a new strategy.  He wants to stop Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney from winning the 1,144 delegates he needs to secure the nomination.  So now he plans to spend less time in the primary states and instead personally call delegates to try to convince them to back him at the Convention.  He believes that there will be no clear winner in the first round of voting and so the delegates will then be free to back another candidate.

    He believes they will want him. 

    Bill Schneider is a long time Washington watcher.  He doesn't think the new plan has any more chance of success than the old one: "The problem with Newt Gingrich is Newt Gingrich.  People simply don't like him very much.  I've looked back at the polls on his favourability since he became a public figure in 1994, almost 20 years ago. Americans have never liked Gingrich."

    Newt Gingrich has always believed in his intelligence and his talents.  By scaling back his campaign, however, he appears to be acknowledging that not enough people share that belief.

    Follow Alan on Twitter throughout the US presidential election campaign @AlanFisher



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