Gingrich and wife Callista Gingrich Tuesday night (Butch Dill/AP)
Newt Gingrich lost handily Tuesday night to Rick Santorum in Alabama and Mississippi—places he cast as high priority contests as he sought to lay claim to the Deep South—further setting him back in the delegate count.
But the prospect of a contested nomination, in which Romney cannot reach the 1,144 delegates he needs to secure a majority, is keeping this losing candidate afloat.In recent days, Gingrich has taken to likening himself to Warren G. Harding, the nation's 19th president, who emerged victorious from a contested 1920 Republican convention, Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports.
"The reason I keep citing Leonard Wood [the Army general and Republican presidential candidate in 1920] is because in 1920, Wood goes into the convention as the front-runner," Gingrich reportedly said Tuesday evening. "Harding goes in as the guy who's in sixth place, and at the end of ten ballots, Harding is the nominee and Wood is gone."
On Tuesday night, Gingrich proclaimed that his losses in Alabama and Mississippi still advanced him toward this goal.
"Because this is proportional representation, we're going to leave Alabama and Mississippi with a substantial number of delegates, increasing our total going towards Tampa," Gingrich said in a forward-looking and celebratory speech Tuesday night—referencing this summer's Republican convention in Florida—following his losses.
That rhetoric continued Wednesday.
"The Fight Continues!" his campaign proclaimed in a morning email to supporters.
"These past few weeks have provided additional evidence that I am the candidate best prepared to take the fight to President Obama and defeat him in November," his campaign stated in that email missive, in which they targeted the "Washington establishment" for attempting to "prematurely end" the Republican primary.
Despite this rhetoric, expect Gingrich to face further pressure to exit the race in the hopes of consolidating conservative support around Santorum. In past contests, including Tennessee, high-profile supporters have publicly realigned with Santorum, citing electability. If that continues, Gingrich will lose the funding and support necessary to keep his campaign afloat.
So how can a candidate who has just two primary wins (including his home state of Georgia), who has been unable to fulfill his proclamation to win the South, faces pressure to exit, and continues to lag behind his opponents in delegates, remain viable?
Below we map out the path forward that Gingrich's campaign is promoting:
• They're still racking up delegates: The math isn't in Gingrich's favor, but due to a proportional allocation of delegates in many states, Gingrich's second- and third-place wins around the country has sent a number of delegates his way. Gingrich predicted Tuesday that no single candidate will enter the convention with a majority of delegates, leaving the nomination contested and Gingrich and his delegates in play. Gingrich is banking on coming out the victor in that process.
• Gingrich is favored in upcoming contests: Gingrich's campaign in its Tuesday memo claimed an edge in states soon to vote—Louisiana, the District of Columbia (which Gingrich's team noted is winner-take-all and Santorum will not appear on the ballot), Maryland, and his wife Callista's home state of Wisconsin, though early indications suggest his support is fading in Louisiana. His campaign contends the pace of the remaining contests also bodes well for Gingrich and will bring him to states where it will take more than money to win a majority of support. "The sequencing and pace of the second half favors Newt," his campaign argued in its public memo. "When this process started, Newt's team had two goals: block an early Romney nomination; and plan for a sequenced and paced second half." Texas, which promises 155 delegates and where Gingrich has the support of Gov. Rick Perry, also factors heavily into the Gingrich strategy.
• Mitt Romney is losing steam: Amid their own losses to Santorum, Gingrich and his campaign argue publicly that Romney's losses to Santorum prove he is a weak front-runner. "The elite media's effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed," Gingrich said in his speech Tuesday night. "If you're a front-runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a front-runner."
• Voters will realize Gingrich is Obama's biggest fear: National head-to-head polling may not bear this out, but Gingrich contends that he's the strongest candidate to take on President Obama. He uses his new pledge to lower gas to $2.50 per gallon as the most recent example of his ability to influence the White House, even from his current unofficial position. "The White House is clearly on the defensive," his campaign wrote Wednesday. Gingrich believes his campaign of "solutions" and "big ideas" will lead him to outlast and defeat opponents.
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