By Happy Carlock |
Newt Gingrich should not drop out of the race. He may not win the nomination, but his continued presence keeps the contest relevant. Relevance draws attention and attention means more enthusiasm. His departure might help Rick Santorum consolidate social conservatives, but it's also going to shift the media narrative to Romney's inevitability. The chances of Santorum winning enough delegates to grab the nomination are slim; the April calendar doesn't work in his favor. Gingrich's exit will make Romney's de facto nomination the top news story.
The GOP faces a significant enthusiasm gap. Compared to 2008, and with the exception of Michigan and South Carolina, turnout in the other 29 states has plummeted. The Iowa and New Hampshire contests, which get the majority of press coverage, increased by a paltry 3 percent. And Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Minnesota plummeted an average 20 percent--750,000 fewer Republicans have voted this year, and that's not a good sign for the Elephants' chances of beating the president.
There's a lot of drama now, and without it, voters will get bored. Keeping up with American Idol will be a lot more interesting than hearing a unified party attack the president between now and Tampa. The longer the race, the greater the opportunity the GOP can mobilize voters through November. Recent political science research indicates that the extended Obama/Clinton battle boosted voter interest in the general election.
Gingrich's continued presence also helps the democratic process. Primaries are all about choice, but a shrinking field denies that. Gingrich brings attention to some issues that Romney and Santorum have glossed over, such as energy policy, science, and innovation. Voters should have the broadest understanding of how the GOP will address the critical issues so that they can make the most informed vote choice. Big states like New York, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania also deserve to a multi-candidate pool. These states have a huge share of the national population, and their primaries will indicate where the larger electorate stands on the candidates. This was one of the main reasons why Republicans revamped their 2012 primary rules.
Of course, whether or not Gingrich remains viable boils down to his ability to attract funds and resources. If he can't, whether or not he stays in the race is moot.
About Jamie Chandler Professor at Hunter 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