Newt Gingrich plans to finally end his presidential campaign next week, according to campaign aides. The former U.S. House Speaker will suspend his flailing bid next Tuesday. It brings to an end a wild, roller coaster ride that saw Gingrich sail to the top of the polls twice, only to end in humbling fashion.
“It’s clear Romney is the nominee and the focus should be on defeating Obama. We should not focus on defeating ourselves,” Gingrich finally conceded on Wednesday during a speech in North Carolina. He plans to formally endorse Romney soon and finally give up on his pledge to continue the nomination fight all the way to the RNC convention in August.
Gingrich’s bid for the GOP nomination was plagued with problems from the start. Just days after making his campaign official in early May, Gingrich was lambasted by conservatives nationwide for criticizing Representative Paul Ryan’s budget plan. The day after making the comments on “Meet the Press”, one Iowa activist greeted Gingrich in Dubuque by telling him to “get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself”. The exchange was captured by TV cameras and broadcast around the country.
Things quickly got worse. Word came out that Gingrich had racked up a $500,000 debt at Tiffany’s. Despite the turmoil, Gingrich insisted that the large crowds during his 17-stop Iowa tour proved things were fine. They weren’t. A few weeks later, Gingrich’s national and Iowa staff resigned en masse after he chose a vacation in the Mediterranean over working the campaign trail. Most observers believed the presidential bid was over before it ever really began.
However, Gingrich soldiered on. Bereft of funding and staff, the former Georgia congressman made occasional appearances in Iowa throughout the summer and fall. He lacked the resources to compete in the Ames Straw Poll, so Gingrich did not even purchase a space at the event. Instead, he walked the grounds at the Straw Poll, while six other candidates, including little-known Thad McCotter, had tents, stages, food and free tickets for their supporters.
There was one thing keeping Gingrich’s candidacy afloat: He consistently excelled in the numerous presidential debates. While several other candidates rose and fell in the polls, Gingrich stayed above the fray in debates. He refused to criticize his fellow Republicans, repeatedly smacked down the moderators, and provided substantive answers on the issues.
Republicans began to salivate at the prospect of watching Gingrich dismantle President Obama on the debate stage. Based almost exclusively on that premise, Gingrich’s campaign rose to the top of the national polls by late November and the Iowa Poll in early December. All of the momentum was on the former House Speaker’s side. It did not remain there for long.
Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and their supporters brutally attacked Gingrich’s record. Evangelicals ripped his well-documented marital woes. The combined onslaught sent Gingrich’s poll numbers spiraling. Gingrich peaked too soon. He admitted as much during an eastern Iowa stop on December 19. “We’re still putting our campaign together,” he said, 15 days before the Iowa Caucus. “We’re actually a campaign trying to catch up with popular support.”
The attacks, combined with Gingrich’s lack of organization and unpreparedness sent his poll numbers spiraling. There were also no debates between December 16 and the January 3 caucus. Following an unending stream of debates and forums in the previous months, the two and a half week dry spell was particularly damaging to Gingrich, who was consistently the best debater of the bunch.
Just one month after sitting atop the polls in Iowa, Gingrich finished a distant fourth in the Iowa Caucus. It was a freefall brought on attacks by his opponents, but should be blamed on Gingrich himself. He spent months criticizing political consultants and strategists, claiming he did not need them. His plummet from the top to the middle of the pack proved otherwise. Gingrich failed to build a significant organization in Iowa, so he had nothing to fall back on went his momentum started to slip.
He followed the Iowa Caucus stumble with an equally disappointing fourth place finish in New Hampshire. His bid was considered dead. Amazingly, Gingrich’s campaign would rise again. Angry about the attacks from Mitt Romney and his supporters, Gingrich reversed course on his earlier pledge not to attack his fellow Republicans. Gingrich and a super PAC supporting him vilified Mitt Romney’s ties to Bain Capital. While claiming to be the “conservative alternative”, Gingrich was attacking something conservatives hold dear: free market capitalism.
The reversal of course worked, briefly. Gingrich bulldozed the field en route to a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary, garnering 40 percent of the vote. It seemed the native Georgian was right back in the thick of the GOP nomination battle. However, the celebration was short lived.
The expert debater struggled in two subsequent debates leading up to the important Florida primary. His bickering with Mitt Romney turned off voters, and the better-funded former Massachusetts governor trounced Gingrich in the Sunshine State, 46-32.
The Florida loss effectively ended Gingrich’s presidential hopes. He was the only one unable to realize it. Gingrich would only win one more primary, in his home state of Georgia. The former House Speaker should have succeeded in the states that neighbored Georgia, but conservative voters there favored native Pennsylvanian Rick Santorum over Gingrich.
Finally, a devastating defeat in Delaware on Tuesday night made Gingrich realize his dream of the presidency was over. Losing by 29 points to Mitt Romney, Gingrich finally grasped that continuing the campaign was pointless. Millions of dollars in debt and having no hope of stopping Romney from garnering the nomination, Newt Gingrich is finally tapping out.
His campaign is a textbook example of exactly how not to run for president. Making a bid for the presidency requires a steadfast commitment to spend countless hours on the trail. Organization, a strong and loyal staff, money, and most importantly, self-discipline from the candidate are all prerequisites. Gingrich was unable to maintain any of these things.
He showed from the start that vacationing with his wife took priority over campaigning. He claimed bold ideas would trump building an organization. The problem is, he needed both. Then he turned away from his months of promises to not attack his fellow Republicans. He responded to negative broadsides by resorting to nastier, pettier assaults. It was unbecoming of a man who wants to become the conservative standard bearer and deserves great praise for helping to engineer the famous Republican wave of 1994.
Newt Gingrich is a brilliant man. His ideas certainly have a place in the conservative movement. He would be a good advisor in a Romney administration. However, the Gingrich brand might have been damaged too much by his haphazard campaign. The noted historian made history once again, and once again, it was not for anything good. The GOP nomination was attainable for Gingrich. He was just too erratic to grasp it.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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