NATCHITOCHES, La., March 14, 2012—After his losses in Alabama and Mississippi, states that his campaign last week considered “must win,” Newt Gingrich declared himself triumphant.
After some gracious words for Rick Santorum, a man he’s roundly dismissed as second-rate, Newt declared, “We’re going to leave Alabama and Mississippi with a substantial number of delegates … We’re going to take a much bigger delegation [to Tampa] than we had yesterday.”
Earlier yesterday, Newt was explicit about his strategy for Tampa. “With Rick and me together, we are really slowing him down, with some help frankly from Ron Paul. The country is sort of saying, a majority is saying, ‘Not Romney’. The biggest bloc is saying Romney, but it’s not a big enough bloc to be a majority. We now are beginning to think he will literally not be able to get the delegates to get the nomination.”
Newt’s ego is vast beyond measure, but he isn’t a stupid man. He understands very well that he can’t possibly earn the 1144 delegates he needs to win the nomination in the primaries. Santorum is in the same position. The remaining winner-take-all contests include Utah (whose majority LDS population will almost certainly go for Romney), New Jersey (much bluer than Alabama, and whose popular governor supports Romney), Delaware (in Romney country), and the District of Columbia (where the inept Santorum campaign is once again not even on the ballot), and if Romney performs just up to his average so far in the other states, he’ll at the very least come close to that 1144.
So the Newt-Santorum strategy now is to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war on Romney. They’d turn Tampa into Chicago in 1968, but with angry old men in sensible shoes rampaging rather than hippies. Or perhaps Newt sees himself as Samson rather than McCarthy, ready to bring down the temple on the corrupt GOP establishment.
Whatever his strategy, Newt will never be the nominee. He can wreak havoc, but he’ll serve other interests and not survive to reap the reward. He’ll be remembered as a destroyer, not the GOP savior or a victor. And if he thinks that Santorum is second-rate, he should be aware that Santorum isn’t a stupid man, either. If they shared a ticket, Santorum would be on top. A Santorum-Newt ticket would be a disaster, and their common interest stops well short of Santorum taking him on as a running mate.
Newt is a tactician, not a strategist. That was clear when he took the GOP to control of the House in 1994. He knew how to engineer that victory and then had no idea what to do with it. And so his brilliant victory (and it was brilliant) was for nothing. By the administration of George Bush, the GOP House was indistinguishable as a pig trough from its Democratic predecessors. Newt is an instrument of political war, a political Achilles whose victories are always for today and for his own glory, not for the future.
He’s at the end of his career. There will be no more campaigns for him, and the legacy of this one will be bitter. Were he not blind, he’d understand that there will be no office, no cabinet post and no thanks from a grateful party if he pursues his course. And yet he can’t help himself. He’s a barbarian and an egotist, and as utterly predictable as the tide.
Romney will be the GOP nominee, or the GOP will be reduced to rubble in November. Romney can go into the campaign with a serious chance, or he can be so damaged that he makes McCain’s campaign look strong. Newt’s preferences are clear. What the GOP’s preferences are remains to be seen.
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