TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: Newt opts to burn down GOP house

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Let’s face facts: There will be no colonizing the moon in 2013.

Newt Gingrich had a marginal pretext to stay in the race after Super Tuesday — just marginal. He won Georgia, a state he represented in Congress for two decades. Fine, that allowed him to fight on slightly longer.

But if Newt can’t win Mississippi and Alabama, where will he win? Maybe Texas, where he has been endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry. But that delegate-rich primary takes place at the end of May, and by then Gingrich will probably be so irrelevant that he couldn’t win the state even if Ronald Reagan and Sam Houston endorsed him.

He’s functionally done, not being able to beat a Northerner in his Southern backyard.

But even functionally done and increasingly irrelevant, he can hurt Rick Santorum, who had two big wins Tuesday night in Alabama and Mississippi. Polling shows that Santorum would take more supporters of Gingrich’s than Mitt Romney if Newt got out of the race. Had Newt Gingrich dropped out earlier, Santorum would have likely won the crucial state of Ohio, and perhaps even Michigan.

In close races going forward, even if Gingrich is only picking up 10 percent of the vote, he could throw states to Romney. Gingrich’s presence in the race effectively benefits the man he supposedly detests.

Santorum’s official line is that he refuses to call for Gingrich to drop out of the race. In a delusional speech last night, Gingrich made clear he intends to go all the way to the convention. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Gingrich campaign)

But if his strategy is to win a contested convention where none of the Big Three has the requisite 1,144 delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, he may need some counseling. It is hard to see how he would emerge victorious from the convention if he came into it in a distant third place in delegates and without the momentum that comes from winning states outright.

Maybe Newt really believes staying in the race elevates the national discussion. He claims to be the ideas candidate. But there is only one debate on the calendar at the moment so there won’t be so many grand opportunities to spread his argument for moon colonization to a wider audience.

During CNN’s election night coverage Tuesday, John King went through several scenarios on his interactive election map. If Newt stays in, the chances that Santorum closes the delegate gap significantly enough are small and Romney could very well pick up the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination before the convention.

But if Newt drops out and Santorum defeats Romney in state after state, including California, he could narrow the delegate gap going into the convention to where he would have real shot of emerging victorious in a contested convention.

Basically, Gingrich staying in benefits Romney. Gingrich leaving gives Santorum the one-on-one race with Romney he has earned and a real chance at taking the nomination.

WATCH: John King explains the delegate math

Some have suggested that deep in his heart Gingrich fashions himself a modern Winston Churchill, called to lead his country at a critical moment in its history. But history — using Alabama and Mississippi as its surrogates — has spoken and it has declared that Newt is decidedly not Churchill and that he won’t be president. At least not President of the United States.

As The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis pointed out while calling for Gingrich to drop out, “if [Gingrich] 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.”

Tuesday night, Gingrich took the burn down the house strategy in refusing to get out. If he can’t win, he’ll torpedo Santorum’s chance of winning and intentionally or unintentionally give the nomination to his nemesis, Mitt Romney. Perhaps upon further reflection, he will put his ego aside and do the right thing by allowing the final two serious candidates standing to battle it out for the GOP nomination.

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