A kajillion years or so ago, I spent a bunch of time working on electoral campaigns. Since I was drawn to idealistic liberals, everybody I worked for lost, sometimes quite spectacularly. And I noticed something that happens on a losing campaign: After months of spending your days telling everyone you meet (voters, potential volunteers, potential donors, reporters) how your candidate is just the bee's knees and he is totally going to win despite what everyone thinks, the scales can fall from your eyes. This seems to happen about 72 hours before election day. A strange sense of calm overtakes you, something like the endorphin rush you're supposed to get as your body approaches death. People on the campaign begin to wander off in a daze. On one campaign I was working on in Northern California, after putting in 16-hour days for weeks, the field director (my boss, and someone older and more experienced than me), said, as we were out on an errand two days before the election, a time that was typically frenetic, "So, you been out to Half Moon Bay?" And we took a drive to look at the ocean.
I thought of that as I read this article in the Politico about the latest weird phase in the weirdness that is the presidential campaign of Newton Leroy Gingrich:
A lifelong animal lover, the former speaker has been scheduling more time at zoos. He toured the renowned San Diego Zoo in mid-February, going behind the scenes to look at panda bears, and was slated to hit the Birmingham Zoo on primary day last week in Alabama until it got rained out.
Gingrich was not to be denied Friday in New Orleans, though, where he checked out the flamingos, petted an elephant and got roared at by animatronic dinosaurs at Audubon Park.
It's not just his interest his animals that he’s indulging. The former history professor is also making time on the trail to take in America's landmarks.
After months of talking about the Wright Brothers in his stump speech, Gingrich stopped in Dayton, Ohio, last month to tour Orville Wright's home.
"That was fun," Gingrich remarked as he left the house with his wife, Callista.
"It was. It was fascinating," she said. "I"m glad we did that — add it to our list of historic places."
The unusual schedule, mixing in just plain fun to lessen the monotony of modern campaigning, reflects a candidate who is fully in charge of his own operation.
Even Newt, who is utterly convinced of his world-historical importance, knows this thing is lost. Even if he's not ready to admit it to himself, at this point he's just wandering about the country, fitting in a few speeches between trips to the zoo. His campaign is basically broke, his staffers are surreptitiously reaching out to their friends on the Romney campaign just to let them know that they're available once the general election staff-up comes, and even his voters are probably losing interest. But hey, why pack up his bags now? There are more zoos to visit, and even though Kansas already held its caucuses, it might be worth another trip there to check out the world's largest ball of twine.