It was unbelievable: As soon as Newt Gingrich failed to win both Alabama and Mississippi in the GOP race for president, most members of the mainstream media and political strategists with whom I talked readily admitted, off the record, that he was the most qualified among the Republican candidates to serve as president. Now these are objective pros that have been around presidential politics for years. I have no doubt they were telling me the truth because these folks only tell you this stuff when it is relatively clear that the candidate is no longer a viable alternative.
The Gingrich campaign is pushing the concept that, by staying in the contest, Speaker Gingrich could help take away enough delegates to deprive Mitt Romney the numbers needed to have the GOP nomination locked up by the time the candidates reach the convention in Tampa, Fla. Obviously, as a lifelong friend of Gingrich's, I am not going to argue with their decision to press forward. Their frustration is that their candidate knows more about foreign policy and defense matters in his little finger than the other two leading candidates know in their entire body. It is likely they find it incredible that a man who could outdebate Barack Obama in virtually any format is now in this predicament. I don't blame them if they feel this way.
But the reality is that no camp agrees with any other camp's delegate math. Romney, who has spent a fortune to amass his delegates, believes the numbers suggest that he will have no problem locking the nomination up by or before the last contested state. And that may well be true. The fact that Romney continues to gather delegates in areas he himself considers "away games" suggests that his staying power might just deliver a requisite number of delegates before the convention. It could be a tiny margin, and it will have cost not just tons of money, but the support of candidates who have taken his multimillion-dollar "carpet bombing" in the various states very personally.
As for Santorum, his camp believes their best chance is for Gingrich to exit stage left and allow there to become a consolidation of "conservative" voters who, by their calculations, would leave Romney pulling his usual 35 percent in most states and give Santorum huge wins in critical upcoming contests.
That sounds great for Santorum, but it might not work out as planned. Unless Santorum received an outright endorsement from Gingrich, a portion of Newt's votes might stray to Romney. Analysis of polling shows that Gingrich does well among longtime Republicans who consider themselves conservative. Those supporters might embrace Romney as an alternative.