At least twice during this GOP primary season, former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign was left for dead. He impressively battled back — against the odds — each time. For demonstrating toughness — and for always injecting energy and new ideas into the GOP debate — Gingrich has earned our respect.
But there won’t be another comeback. Not this year, at least. Having lost two southern states tonight — ostensibly the geographic bloc that should be his base — the time has come for Gingrich to exit the race.
To be sure, there’s an argument for him to stay in. But it’s a Machiavellian argument. Gingrich would, by soldiering on, continue to pick up some delegates, even as he lost primaries.
While the idea Gingrich could or would win a brokered convention seems absurd, it is likely that continuing to accrue delegates would give him additional bargaining leverage going into the Republican convention in Tampa this summer.
But there are good reasons for Gingrich to reject that cynical strategy. First, if he truly believes Mitt Romney is a “Massachusetts moderate” masquerading as a conservative, then he owes it to Republican voters to give former Sen. Rick Santorum a clean shot at wresting the nomination from him. I’m pretty sure Santorum has earned it.
Second, staying in the race — merely in order to play a kingmaker or to curry favor at a later time — is hardly the most honorable or inspiring rationale for a candidacy. Gingrich would be essentially asking donors to contribute money to a campaign he knows cannot win — and he would be asking voters to cast their votes for a candidate he knows can’t win.
Newt Gingrich surprised us all by taking a shoestring campaign all the way into March of 2012. He won South Carolina, and his home state of Georgia. He should be proud of the campaign he has run. But if he wants to remain proud of his efforts, it’s important to go out in a classy manner.