Newt Gingrich Is Mitt Romney's Secret Weapon

If Newt Gingrich doesn't make it to the nomination, he should look at the primary results—not the newspapers.

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For someone who thinks the "elite media" has "anointed" Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich is doing a pretty good job of helping the former Massachusetts governor get the nomination.

Gingrich, a former House Speaker, has virtually no real hope of amassing the number of delegates needed to sew up the GOP nomination ahead of the convention in Tampa. His only chance is to keep things so in tumult that the party doesn't know what to do, and then—well, anoints Gingrich at the convention. But staying in the race is arguably having the opposite effect, since Gingrich's presence in the race serves largely to divide the anti-Romney vote. That deprives former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum of delegates in many states, especially southern states where evangelicals and social conservatives are wary of Romney. Santorum won both Mississippi and Alabama, with Gingrich second and Romney a close third in both states. But if Gingrich hadn't been in the race, it's likely that the votes—and the delegates proportionately assigned—would have gone to Santorum.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Newt Gingrich]

Santorum, too, is highly unlikely to get the delegates needed to secure the nomination. But if he was established as the single, conservative alternative to Romney, he'd be picking up more votes and delegates. And the more he gets, the more he can try to convince people that Romney's biggest political asset—his electability—is not unique to him in the field.

It's frustrating for candidates when the media calls someone a "front-runner" early on, because it makes it harder for so-called back-benchers to get taken seriously. It's particularly irritating when the moniker is assigned before a single vote is cast. Hillary Clinton, for example, was deemed the "front-runner" for the Democratic nomination in 2008 even before a single primary was held. The determination was based on early polls, which themselves were driven a good deal by name recognition. But Barack Obama overcame early expectations and won both the nomination and the presidency.

[See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

Gingrich, perhaps, had a legitimate gripe about the way his chances were described last year—though staff exoduses and bad judgment (that Tiffany's revolving line of credit? The luxury cruise vacation in the middle of a campaign?) had something to do with it, too. But Republicans are now halfway through their primary campaign, and Gingrich has won only two states—his home state of Georgia and the neighboring state of South Carolina. That's not the fault of an "elite media" bent on nominating Romney. That's what GOP voters are deciding.

Gingrich seems to want to stay in the race, and as long as he can do so financially, why not? But if he doesn't make it, he should look at the primary results—not the newspapers.

  • Read the U.S. News debate: Will Newt Gingrich Do the GOP More Harm Than Good by Staying in the 2012 Race?
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