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The conventional wisdom now is that, even with the Republican nomination slipping further and further away, former Speaker Newt Gingrich will fight tooth and nail all the way to Tampa, making life miserable for the party’s likely nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
That scenario certainly is possible, and Democrats surely would benefit from seven months of bloodletting between the party’s establishment and tea party/populist wings.
Maybe I simply like being a contrarian from time to time, but count me as skeptical that Gingrich will fight all the way until June and even beyond, no matter how much bravado and bombast was in his speech Tuesday night.
There is no doubting Gingrich’s contempt for Romney, whose allies have pounded the Georgia Republican repeatedly since he returned from the political graveyard right after Herman Cain’s exit from the GOP race.
Gingrich hasn’t called to congratulate Romney after his two victories, and the former Speaker must be deeply frustrated with his inability to capitalize on his South Carolina victory.
After all, this is a man who thinks big and talks big — a man who, I imagine, thought that he would be his party’s nominee. Modesty and humility don’t come easily to Gingrich, so the thought that he might have missed his opportunity must be difficult to accept. He looks and sounds like a bitter man.
The night of a crushing defeat in a key state was not likely to be the moment Gingrich took a cold-blooded look at his prospects. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that Gingrich’s first reaction Tuesday evening would be one of defiance, as he reiterated his belief that he would be the Republican nominee to face President Barack Obama and promised to take the fight to 46 more states.
But even with proportional representation (required during March contests) preventing the eventual nominee from locking up the nomination quickly, the process makes it difficult for a traditional kind of candidate, such as Gingrich, to remain a factor in the race — especially as long as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum remains a viable option for conservatives.
Unlike Rep. Ron Paul, who is promoting his libertarian agenda and has supporters who care more about making their case than about winning the nomination, Gingrich is actually running for president. He’ll need money, victories and a demonstrable path to the nomination to keep his candidacy going.