By Happy Carlock |
There are four possible reasons why Newt Gingrich might justify staying in the race. Only one is remotely plausible. The first is the slight chance that he could win a plurality of the delegates heading into the convention. But with only a few remaining southern states to be contested, and with Rick Santorum demonstrating that he can compete with Gingrich in this region, Gingrich has virtually no chance of taking the delegate lead. So far he has demonstrated very little strength outside of the South, and there's no reason to believe that support will be forthcoming in other regions.
The second reason is to prevent a Romney victory. But by staying in the race and splitting the Tea Party, evangelical, and conservative vote with Rick Santorum, Gingrich actually increases the likelihood that neither he nor Santorum can amass the delegates needed to stop Romney's march to the nomination. Under the new Republican Party delegate allocation rules, it is very difficult to gain big chunks of delegates, and to prevent one's opponent from doing the same, without winning over 50 percent of the vote in a state. Gingrich's presence makes that scenario less likely.
The third reason is to amass delegates and hope to emerge victorious from a brokered convention. Even here, however, Gingrich will have to devise a rationale for why he should be chosen over his two rivals, both of whom will likely enter the convention with more delegates and a stronger claim to be the nominee.
The fourth and most plausible reason is to play kingmaker at a deadlocked convention. Assuming no candidate wins the nomination on the first ballot, it is possible that Gingrich can use his delegate haul as currency in an effort to buy support for his favored candidate—or for a position in the next Republican nomination. Even this strategy poses risks, however. By staying in the race and splitting the vote and delegates with Santorum, Gingrich may actually increase the likelihood that Romney clinches the nomination outright—thus preventing him from playing kingmaker at all.
The bottom line is that there is only one reason for Gingrich to stay in the race—and it may not be reason enough.
About Matthew Dickinson Professor at Middlebury College
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Lara Brown Author of 'Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants'
Krystal Ball MSNBC Contributor and Former Democratic Nominee for Congress in the First District of Virginia