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Why Newt Gingrich isn't quitting the GOP race

March 15, 2012|By Paul West
(Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune )

Reporting from Chicago — He’s lost 26 of the last 27 Republican delegate contests.  His money is running low. Any chance that he might gain the presidential nomination has now disappeared.

But Newt Gingrich isn’t leaving the campaign trail -- though Rick Santorum and some leading conservatives  wish he would quit.

At 68, the former House speaker is making what figures to be his last fling at elective politics.  But it is his sense of himself as an epic figure that may well be what's keeping him going.

Gingrich is clearly enticed by the prospect — however slim — that the race won’t get decided until the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., at the end of August, and by the prominent role that he might get to play there.  By staying in, Gingrich arguably makes it more difficult for Mitt Romney to pile up delegates, since party rules award delegates to losing candidates in many states.  That, in turn, increases the chances that the convention might actually decide the nomination.

“I’m sure that, today, Newt is thinking he is going to go all the way to the convention,” said former Rep. Vin Weber, a leading Gingrich lieutenant during the Georgia congressman’s rise to power in the House during the 1980s and early 1990s. “He will, at least, reassess that thinking over the next week or two.”

Weber sees the pull of a dramatic showdown in Tampa as the lure that is keeping his old friend from abandoning his presidential candidacy.  Gingrich has 131 delegates, according to the latest AP count, a potentially significant bargaining chip if Romney falls short of the 1,144 needed to lock up the nomination in advance.

“Newt, being a political historian, sees the prospect of the first open convention, at least since 1976, as a very exciting historic opportunity,” said Weber, a Romney campaign advisor.  “I’m hoping that he’ll have second thoughts.”     

paul.west@latimes.com

Why Newt Gingrich isn't quitting the GOP race

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