Newt Gingrich had a terrible Super Tuesday. Yes, yes, he won Georgia, his home state, going away. But he not only failed to win any of the other nine states that held elections, he failed to place second in any of them as well. He came in third in the other two Southern states that held contests—Tennessee and Oklahoma. In five states—Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Vermont—he ran fourth, behind Ron Paul.
To date, Gingrich has won Georgia, South Carolina, and, as he pointed out on Tuesday night, the Panhandle section of Florida – that is, the Southernmost parts of the South. He’s fortunate that the two big contests next Tuesday are in Alabama and Mississippi. Even if he wins them, though he will remain the candidate of the Deep South and nothing more. By winning Tuesday in Tennessee and Oklahoma, Santorum has positioned himself as the candidate of the Upper South (not to mention, the Plains states).
But Santorum may well decide that now is the time to knock Newt clear out of the race. After all, the only thing Gingrich accomplished outside Georgia on Tuesday was to split the conservative vote with Santorum in Ohio, throwing the state to Romney. If Santorum focuses on America’s Historic Backwater this week (Alabama and Mississippi, that is), he might just defeat Gingrich and end the Newtster’s campaign.
Indeed, as the campaign drags on, you have to wonder not about Gingrich’s motivation—this is clearly his last go-round as a candidate, and he’s in no hurry to end it—but about Sheldon Adelson’s. The Vegas and Macau casino mogul must know that by keeping Gingrich in the race through his donations to Newt’s super PAC, he’s really keeping Santorum from consolidating the conservative vote. That is, he’s helping Romney—and maybe that’s what this canny operator really wants. An avowed Obama-hater, Adelson may well believe that Santorum has no chance to unseat the president, and so he helps Newt to really help Mitt. This is sheer speculation, I acknowledge, but it’s increasingly the only rational explanation for Adelson’s Gingrich-generosity.
Should Gingrich win at least one of the Ala-Miss two next week, he’ll doubtless claim enough momentum to soldier on, though the prospect of a subsequent victory in even one other state would be slim. Should he lose both, there won’t be even a scintilla of plausibility to his claims of possible success.
But who knows? Maybe Newt will decide to go out as a Messianic Harold Stassen.