Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

What Could Be Next in the Race for President?

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich didn’t compete in Illinois and finished fourth there after a weak third in Ohio. He’s really no longer a factor for the GOP nomination.

Mr. Irrelevant is the term given to the last player selected in the NFL draft, a reflection of the long odds he faces in making an NFL roster. Increasingly, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) has become the Mr. Irrelevant in the GOP race for the presidential nomination.

Gingrich wonít get out of the race, but he wonít fight for the nomination either. He has limited himself to competing here and there so that he can make an increasingly bizarre, out-of-touch primary night speech about his vision and his prospects.

If you donít compete in Illinois and finish a weak fourth there (behind even Texas Rep. Ron Paul) after a weak third in Ohio (where you received 15 percent of the vote), you really arenít a factor for the GOP nomination. Itís as simple as that. Oh, and you donít deserve to have the cable networks cover your speeches, either.

A little more than a month ago in this space, I asked, ďJust How Much Does Gingrich Hate Romney?Ē The answer now seems pretty obvious: not as much as he loves running for president.

Gingrichís exit a few weeks ago might not have benefited Rick Santorum enough to help the former Pennsylvania Senator overtake Mitt Romney, but at least a two-person contest would have offered the GOP a clean, clear choice. Now, itís getting too late for a possible one-on-one race to matter.

The only hope for the anti-Romney forces now seems to be a credentials fight, which certainly could still occur. While Florida was penalized for jumping into the early primary/caucus window, it also violated party rules by assigning delegates on a winner-take-all basis, so a credentials fight over that easily could occur.

Thatís one reason Romney needs to wrap up the nomination sooner rather than later. Not only would a credentials fight make the partyís internal division even deeper and more difficult to heal, it could be a problem for the former Massachusetts governor if he is well short of the delegates he needs to lock up the nomination.

Still, the division in the GOP ranks shows no sign of healing soon. Romney continues to run well among upscale voters, non-evangelicals, less conservative Republicans and those who live in urban and suburban areas. He still is faring poorly among rural voters, the most conservative Republicans and evangelicals. It has been that way in almost every state, and there is nothing he can do about it. Nothing.

Romney has spent four years insisting that he is conservative, but nobody believes him.

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