Gingrich Having too Good a Time to Quit

Even without a chance to win the GOP nomination, the former House speaker has a lot to gain.

Newt Gingrich isn’t exactly playing to win in his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In fact, he’s more than content being the party’s “problemee” than its nominee.

Being the big thorn in the nomination process is fine with him. It’s comfortable territory for the former party rebel and firebrand who shook up the GOP establishment two decades ago and led the 1994 Republican revolution.

The former House speaker seems to relish rejecting suggestions that he quit the race to give Rick Santorum a better shot at stopping Mitt Romney’s steady, albeit dull, march to the nomination. It’s not that he has a long-running beef with Santorum. He just doesn’t care.

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Gingrich has little support from establishment Republicans and only tiny support from former House colleagues he worked with. So it should come as no surprise that GOP insiders have little influence in trying to persuade him to get out of the race.

At this rate, Santorum and Gingrich will keep splitting the conservative base in upcoming contests, such as Illinois, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Indiana and North Carolina, leaving a clear, though bumpy, path for Romney. Gingrich will also wreak a little havoc in Texas, which has a May 29 primary and a bagful of delegates. Every delegate that Gingrich wins is one fewer for Santorum, and moves Romney every closer to the 1,144 delegates he needs to claim the nomination.

The math, like the party establishment’s call for him to abandon his candidacy, is irrelevant to Gingrich. Don’t be surprised if he stays in the race all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa this summer.

For one thing, he’s having fun, even if he’s not winning. Also, he has a super PAC and a small cadre of big donors on his side to keep ads up in pricey media markets in coming primaries. Before super PACS were legal, losing primary candidates had a hard time staying in the race as donors drifted away.

Gingrich is a creature of conservative think tanks and does plenty of corporate consulting and makes speeches on the side. That simply pales in comparison to being on the campaign trail for several more months, stirring debate and drawing television cameras and eager reporters.

There’s no chance Gingrich will be tapped for vice president or be offered a role in a Republican administration. So why should he start playing nice?

And there’s always the chance of a surprise development -- Romney or Santorum imploding or one of them facing a health scare or a scandal. So from Gingrich’s standpoint, why not keep the campaign bus filled with gas and chugging along?

Finally, there are plenty of financial reasons for Gingrich to keep pressing from behind on the primary trail. After so much extended exposure and controversy, he’ll again be a star on the speaking circuit and at book signings. He’s far more of an intellectual force than 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who parlayed her candidacy into a booming financial empire built on book sales and massive speaking fees.

Gingrich already has a number of books under his belt. But it’s a fair bet that his next one, out in a year or so, will become a best seller. He’ll be a sought-after television commentator and a much-sought-after speech giver. His bank account will grow by millions.

That’s why Newt Gingrich won’t quit.

Richard Sammon
Senior Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter