Newt Gingrich hasn’t exactly had the most orthodox of campaigns to win the nomination to be the Republican facing Obama come this November. Shortly after announcing his intention to run for the nomination, he thought a holiday to Greece would be the perfect preparation for the tough months ahead. Gingrich’s spokesman, campaign manager and senior strategist disagreed and all resigned en masse, citing a ‘difference of opinion’. This was only the first drop in the roller-coaster that has been the Gingrich operation.
Gingrich fought back from this early setback and, despite losing in the New Hampshire vote, found a renewed sense of purpose in the state of South Carolina. Armed with a $10 million donation from casino owner Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich sprang a surprise win over Mitt Romney and vowed to step up his campaign in Florida. Romney promptly swamped Gingrich in the Sunshine State.
Gingrich had been revelling in his role as the real conservative in the race against Romney, and Republicans were keen to see him perform well. Republicans were struggling to coalesce around Romney – after all, it was Romney’s state wide health insurance plan in Massachusetts that provided the blueprint for Obama’s federal overhaul. It seemed to go well at first, but in the last couple of weeks Gingrich has lost out to ex-Senator Rick Santorum, who performed a stunning three state sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on the 7th February. Even more remarkably, Santorum performed this feat after raising only $2.2 million through the whole of 2011. The next states to vote are Michigan and Arizona on February 28th, but you won’t find Gingrich there. He is off to California.
Gingrich is chasing the money and is pinning his hopes on ‘Super Tuesday’, 6th March, where 10 states hold primaries or caucuses. States voting include his home state of Georgia, and other conservative areas such as Oklahoma and Tennessee. To bring himself back into contention however, Gingrich needs as much money as he can muster, hence his trip to the West Coast. Adelson has been non-committal at best over whether he will continue to support Gingrich further. The Romney campaign has raised a mammoth $57 million in donations so far. The plan goes that if Gingrich can do a good enough job on Super Tuesday, he could be well placed to win the Texas primary which offers a whopping 155 delegates, well over 10% of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination at the Republican convention in August. If he survives there is a good chance of this happening – Texas Governor Rick Perry endorsed Gingrich after he dropped out of the race himself.
Something the Gingrich campaign hadn’t banked on was a soaring Santorum eating up the conservative vote, and making Gingrich look like a lily-livered liberal in comparison. Santorum is strongly socially conservative as well as fiscally. In 2003 Santorum said that if the Supreme Court protects the right for gay people to engage in consensual sex in their own homes, then people have the right to bigamy, polygamy and adultery. He did eventually concede that homosexuality wasn’t quite as bad as ‘man on child, or man on dog’. He believes that contraception should not be offered on health insurance plans, comparing it to offering deodorant or soap. He lambasts ‘elite snobs’ while tax returns show he himself pulled in $1 million in income for 2010.
A prominent Santorum backer, Foster Friess (donator of $380,000 to the Santorum super PAC) has brought yet more bad publicity to the ex-Senator’s bid to be the nominee in a recent interview on MSNBC. He claimed that “Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly”. He has since claimed that the above was just a ‘joke’ exclaiming surprise that so many people failed to see it for it was. Santorum has attempted to disassociate himself personally from the comment, claiming he cannot be held responsible for what other people say. Time will tell if this is a successful tactic in deflecting criticism.
Santorum’s inexperience on the national stage will work against him, and it is to be seen whether Gingrich can capitalise. Santorum is not universally popular, losing his re-election bid to be a Pennsylvania senator in 2006 by a crushing 18 percentage points. Newt’s men can only hope that Santorum continues to verbally stumble on the big stage in the glare of the spotlight. If he does and Gingrich manages to haul himself back into the race, then he will have an even bigger job derailing the financial juggernaut that is the Romney campaign on the way to the convention. If nothing else over the course of the last 8 months, Gingrich has shown himself to be a fighter. He will take this fight to the very last second of the very last round.
Featured image credit: IowaPolitics.com