With Rick Santorum out of the way, Newt Gingrich thinks he can consolidate the conservative base, he told Laura Ingraham on her radio show Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Intrade gives him a .3 percent chance, falling well below Ron Paul and Jeb Bush, who is not even running.
The disconnect is clear. Gingrich is either a delusional flailing candidate or a strategic voice to front issues and shape the party platform, along the lines of Ron Paul. At least Paul, to his credit, never seriously thought he had a chance.
“It’s not over and he has not won it yet,” Gingrich said Tuesday in an Associated Press report. “It’s very clear that Romney does not, today, have the majority of the delegates.
“I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice. I humbly ask Sen. Santorum’s supporters to visit Newt.org to review my conservative record and join us as we bring these values to Tampa. We know well that only a conservative can protect life, defend the Constitution, restore jobs and growth and return to a balanced budget," Gingrich said in a statement after Santorum withdrew.
“It’s a one-step-at-a-time process to see how that all unfolds,” Gingrich said, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Now that it's "down to two choices of a conservative and a moderate," he said, it will be interesting to see "how it all plays out in places like North Carolina.”
Speaking to Mike Huckabee shortly after Santorum withdrew, Gingrich said, “Our folks are making calls to undecideds and those for Rick (Santorum); we have been talking to someone in North Carolina, and there may be a debate between Romney and me. I would like to have an open dialogue — just the two of us, a chat," Fox News Insider reported.
With Ingraham, he shifted back and forth between delusion and platform strategy, sometimes within a single sentence: "I think it makes it clearer and simpler. There is one conservative voice in the race, and now one moderate, and I think that makes it easier to focus on the platform issues I want to focus on ...."
Gingrich's approach seems to be to push an internal dialogue in which the GOP arrives at better positions than it would if it simply lined up behind Romney. Pushed by Ingraham to be more specific, he cited energy policy, but he was evasive and would not give a straight answer when Ingraham asked if he felt Romney's energy policy was inadequate.
At points in the dialogue, he praised Romney strongly and vowed that he and Santorum would unite with Romney against Obama. "Mitt Romney has one great strength: He is a very, very good manager, the guy who will bring the economy back, the guy who will shrink Washington, and who will create jobs." Gingrich then contrasted that performance promise against Obama's claim to be a more pleasant person, but one whom he said is an economic and managerial disaster.
So which is it? Is Gringrich still trying to win, or is he ready to call it a draw?
However ambiguous, Gingrich's praise for Romney was a marked contrast to Santorum's exit on Tuesday in a rambling speech that included a lengthy tribute to the origins and meaning of the sweater vest. Santorum's surrender took place at Gettyburg, with the looming prospect of a defeat in his home state that would dampen his future viability.
Thus even as Romney closes his grip on the nomination, he continues to deal with low-key but vocal resistance on his flanks. How long this continues and how it affects Romney's efforts to consolidate his base remains to be seen.
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at [email protected].