Dreams Never End

Even after losing the Deep South primaries, Newt Gingrich refuses to back down from his bid for the Republican presidential nomination:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says there’s probably no circumstance that would lead him to pull out of the Republican presidential sweepstakes before the party’s August nominating convention.

“I’ll be with you in Tampa,” Gingrich tells CBS’s “This Morning” show, when asked about his plans.

The former congressman from Georgia has won primaries in only two states, South Carolina and Georgia. But when asked Friday what conditions could lead him to withdraw from the race, he says, “Probably none.”

If you believe that there is a path for Rick Santorum to win the nomination, then there are two ways you can look at this. The first is to say that Santorum doesn’t have a chance; both him and Gingrich are vying for the same set of conservative voters, and by splitting the electorate, they allow Mitt Romney to eke by with slight wins and small delegate leads.

On the other hand, while it’s true that Santorum and Gingrich have split the conservative vote, it’s not clear that their supporters are interchangeable. If conservative voters are backing Gingrich out of opposition to Romney, then it makes sense that they would jump to Santorum if the former House Speaker were to leave the race. But if their support has more to do with Gingrich qua Gingrich—in particular, his “most experienced” persona—than it does with Romney, then those voters could jump over to support the former Massachusetts governor if Newt leaves the race. In which case, Santorum is worse off.

There is one other possibility; Gingrich continues to rack up delegates and then, when the convention comes, gives those to Santorum in an attempt to deny Romney the legitimacy of a win. This seems far-fetched to me, but—then again—I never expected Rick Santorum to be a force in this primary.

On the whole then, this might be good news for the former Pennsylvania senator; if he can peel off a few more votes from Gingrich to bolster his total, then he can stay competitive without the risk of losing former Gingrich voters to Romney. Of course, this doesn’t do much for Santorum in the delegate count, where he remains hugely behind.