TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: Scenes from Newt’s campaign to nowhere

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — At least since his backyard losses in Alabama and Mississippi to a Northerner earlier this month, Newt Gingrich’s campaign has been on a bridge to nowhere.

The one (two?) time front-runner has been on a steadily downward trajectory ever since he failed in Florida to capitalize on his stunning South Carolina primary victory. Since then, the former speaker of the House has only emerged victorious in one other state, Georgia — hardly shocking since he was a Georgia congressman for two decades.

Despite being down and out, Gingrich took his nowhere campaign to Annapolis, Md., Tuesday, where he made clear that he has no intention of exiting the race anytime soon.

“Just to preempt a range of questions that I’m certain will come,” Gingrich said to about two dozen journalists and spectators in front of the Maryland State House.

“Gov. [Mitt] Romney is the front-runner but is long way from the majority. We have had 10 million people vote so far in the primaries. About 4 million voted for Romney, 6 million voted for people other than Romney.”

“If he does get — by the time Utah votes on the 26th of June — if he gets a majority obviously I will support him and will be delighted to do everything I can to help defeat Barack Obama,” Gingrich went on.

“But if, however, we get to June 26 and Gov. Romney does not have a majority, I think you’ll then have one of the most interesting open conventions American history. It will be a 60-day dialogue on television, radio, the Internet — all the way up to Tampa.” (RELATED: Full coverage of the Gingrich campaign)

The nasty Newt of New Hampshire is gone and in his place is the upbeat, matter-of-fact Newt who seems to know his chances of winning the nomination are more than remote, but trudges on anyway, genuinely enjoying campaigning.

Newt’s “open convention” strategy for the nomination is beyond ludicrous of course, which he surely knows. Even if no candidate has the requisite 1,144 delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot going into the Republican National Convention in Tampa, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the delegates at the convention would hand the nomination to the guy who comes into it in a distant third place in delegates and without the momentum that comes from winning states.

In such a scenario — if the nomination went to a candidate currently in the race — the nomination would most assuredly go to Romney or Rick Santorum, candidates who would have secured the most delegates and won the most states.

But there is a twinkle in Newt’s eye when he rhetorically imagines a 60-day debate leading into the convention, where candidates would battle it out in the arena of ideas for the right to represent Republicans this fall.

“And the question that’ll be asked is who can best beat Barack Obama?” Newt said, explaining his path to the nomination through the open convention. “And at that point I think most Republicans agree that I would probably do a better job debating Obama than any other candidate and I think it becomes a very viable, very lively campaign.”

After finishing his fairy tale, Newt opened the floor up to questions, which he surely hoped would focus on energy issues or foreign policy or something substantive, but instead largely focused on how his campaign is flagging and has no money.

“The money is very tight, obviously. That’s why we’re trying to raise more money,” Gingrich candidly admitted.

After less than 15 minutes, he was done taking questions from the press. Flanked by a small army of Secret Service agents, an absurdity for a man in his electoral position, Newt took a stroll down Main Street.

His first stop was at Ron George Jewelers. The owner of the shop is a state delegate. Reporters weren’t allowed in so it’s hard to say exactly how many hundreds of thousands of dollars he spent on jewelry for Callista.

After the short stop, Newt continued his way down the street as his security detail attempted to push reporters and cameramen out of the way. Amused by the seriousness of the spectacle, I asked Newt what his favorite shop on the street was. A Secret Service agent chided, “He’s done with the questions.”

I’ll let the candidate determine that, I replied.

Newt’s non-response seemed to validate his Secret Service press agent.

Newt then darted into a restaurant where journalists were again barred from entering. After a meal, he headed off to a campaign stop in the DelMarVa peninsula town of Salisbury. Since he had some time to kill, he tweeted to his fanboys that he stopped at a local zoo, one of his favorite and most endearing pastimes.

As easy as it is to mock Newt’s living-dead campaign, happy Newt is a likable fellow — especially if you are not Rick Santorum, who really does need Newt to drop out.

But why should he? Sure, Santorum may have earned a one-on-one showdown with Romney. (Ron Paul doesn’t count.) But if you’re Newt and you don’t really care all that much if you are spoiling any hope Santorum has at winning the nomination, what’s to lose?

The man is just having too much darn fun promoting his ideas and visiting the nation’s zoos to call it a day.

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