Sell By Super Tuesday

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich holds a press conference after losing the Nevada caucus.

To no one’s surprise, Mitt Romney repeated his 2008 performance in Nevada with a double-digit win last night. Given the poll numbers, which had the former Massachusetts governor leading by up to 20 percent, Romney’s victory was nearly preordained.
As expected, exit polls showed that Mormons, who made up about a quarter of caucus-goers and voted for the candidate by a 90 percent margin, helped propel Romney to victory. But the candidate also led among other key demographics in the state, including evangelicals, Tea Party supporters, and voters who said they wanted someone who could beat Barack Obama.

All that's troubling news for Newt Gingrich, who in his post-caucus press conference—an odd choice of format given the candidate's love for a rallying crowd and antipathy for the media—tried to bill himself as the authentic, conservative alternative to Mitt the Moderate. He vowed to see the race through the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida.

“I’m not going to withdraw,” Gingrich said. “I’m actually pretty happy with where we are. We will go to Tampa.”

Gingrich attacked Romney from all angles: for lacking a populist core; for his recent “I don’t care about the very poor” remark; and for being too liberal (he cited George Soros’s statement on Monday that there isn't all that much difference between Romney and Obama). But the former House speaker's contempt wasn't reserved solely for his opponent. Gingrich lashed out at the Republican establishment, who he said was “scared of a Gingrich presidency,” and the American political system, which he lamented was regrettably negative. But regrets aside, the candidate said he'd play the game.

"I stayed relentlessly positive in Iowa, and I lost 22 points," he said. "I think it's terrible that the American system is reduced to negative ads, some of them false ... but it's a fact. And unfortunately, it's a fact that if you're not willing to stand and fight, you have to get out of the race."

Gingrich's surprise press conference ensured that reporters gave him the attention he sought. But although the former House speaker stole some of Romney's spotlight, his plan to capture enough of the remaining 2,146 (of 2,277) delegates to get the nomination is a long shot: It's all about momentum, and Romney has this on his side.

The more primaries and caucuses Romney checks off, the louder the party will call for Gingrich to give up. Gingrich can get some mileage out of being the anti-Romney candidate for awhile, but it won't get him past Super Tuesday, when the party will begin prepping for what's expected to be a grueling general election. Gingrich’s new slogan may be “45 States to Go,” but his campaign passed its expiration date in Florida. By March 6, it'll just stink up the race.