Newt Gingrich has no clear path to winning the nomination at this point, so in the absence of victory, he's picking the next best thing: influence.
The former speaker of the House once again posted disappointing numbers on Tuesday, coming in third in Maryland, last in Wisconsin, and last in the District of Columbia (former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was not on the D.C. ballot). In a statement on the results, Gingrich repeated his vow to fight on: "I am committed to carrying the banner of bold conservative colors all the way to Tampa to ensure the Republican Party never abandons the timeless conservative principles of Ronald Reagan and the Contract with America."
Winning seems to be falling on the list of Gingrich's priorities. Gingrich's statement notably focuses not on defeating front-runner Mitt Romney but on the party's ideas. And Gingrich has taken to speaking of his persistence more as a matter of principle than of gaining delegates. Rather, he appears to be shifting to a strategy of ensuring his ideas outlive his candidacy. And the best way to do that is via influencing the GOP's 2012 platform.
"There are two last refuges of a losing candidate. One is to ask for a prime-time speech, and the other is to ask for specific planks in the platform. And we'll see about the speech," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
Influencing party aims has always been a focus for Gingrich, the candidate of big ideas, says Steven Schier, professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. "Newt has always been full of policy ideas, and he's always been fascinated, consumed, by public policy. One of the reasons he ran for president is to develop a platform for those ideas," says Schier.
The question is whether a faltering Gingrich has the cachet to significantly influence the party's 2012 platform. If Romney wins the nomination, as appears increasingly likely, significantly shifting his stated views could be next to impossible.
"How could Romney adopt another candidate's planks that conflicted with his own? The answer is he can't," says Sabato. "So if Gingrich is proposing things that Romney has no objection to, [he can influence the platform]. Otherwise, no. He's really not in a position to negotiate hard."
Gingrich's ideas have proven far-reaching. He is persistent in promoting his plan to bring the price of gasoline down to $2.50 per gallon. He sent an E-mail to supporters last week promoting the Chilean model of personal retirement accounts. And in his recent campaign appearances, he has covered a broad swath of topics, like increasing natural gas production through "fracking" and the potential use of electromagnetic pulse in an attack against the United States, as USA Today reported.
As the August convention draws nearer, the campaign continues to spread the Gingrich gospel of conservatism, despite slimming down considerably. On Wednesday and Thursday, Gingrich and his wife, Callista, have nine campaign events planned in Delaware and North Carolina.