Campaign Staffer Wants Gingrich To Drop Out Of Race
COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBS Charlotte) — A campaign staffer for Newt Gingrich is telling the former House speaker to call it quits.
DeLinda Ridings, who ran Gingrich’s successful South Carolina campaign, told WIS-TV that it’s time for the presidential hopeful to throw his support behind Mitt Romney.
“[Gingrich] has tried really hard, but I think it’s time to drop, and it’s time to put our allegiance behind the man that I believe can beat Barack Obama, and that’s Mitt Romney,” Ridings told the station.
Leslie Gaines, Gingrich’s deputy political director for the national campaign, told CBS News that Gingrich has no plans to drop out.
“Our team in SC did a tremendous job helping Newt win the First in the South Primary,” Gaines wrote in an email to CBS News. “But, even the strongest among us can lose faith, but that doesn’t change the fact Moderate Mitt as the nominee guarantees Barack Obama’s second term.”
The Gingrich campaign on Wednesday canceled plans to visit Kansas, instead zeroing in on Mississippi and Alabama, which hold primaries next week. The campaign is also looking ahead to Louisiana later this month and Texas after that, putting everything on the line in the South.
“Everything between Spartanburg (S.C.), all the way to Texas. Those all need to go for Gingrich,” said campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond.
The fallout from Super Tuesday left Gingrich with little choice. Aside from the unsurprising victory in Georgia, which he represented in Congress for 20 years, he had little to cheer about.
He finished far behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in the other nine states and trailed Ron Paul for fourth place in five of the races. Santorum’s victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma — two states with GOP voters similar to Georgia’s — raised doubts about Gingrich’s appeal to Southern conservatives.
Santorum’s campaign was quick to capitalize on his victories Tuesday night.
“And here we are in Oklahoma and Tennessee that we won fairly big. So I think we’re going to do really well in the South,” said Hogan Gidley, a Santorum spokesman. “Rick’s values match up well with the South. His message matches up well in the South.”
In Georgia, exit polls showed strong support from evangelical voters and Tea Party conservatives helped fuel Gingrich’s victory. About 7 in 10 Georgia voters identified themselves as conservative, according to the data, and 50 percent of them voted for Gingrich. That’s a contrast from exit polls in Oklahoma and Tennessee that showed Christian conservatives heavily favored Santorum.
The way these groups vote will determine the fate of the contests next week in Alabama and Mississippi.
“Santorum presents a direct challenge to the electoral coalition Gingrich put together in Georgia,” said Merle Black, an Emory University political scientist. “If Santorum wins either of these states, he destroys the rationale for Gingrich’s candidacy.”
Even a poor showing next week may not force Gingrich out of the race. Much could depend on whether billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has contributed millions to a political action committee backingGingrich, writes yet another check.
In a radio interview Wednesday, Gingrich dismissed the idea of dropping out to help Santorum defeat Romney. “If I thought he was a slam dunk to beat Romney and to beat Obama, I would really consider getting out. I don’t,” he said.
At a stop Wednesday in Montgomery, Ala., Gingrich eagerly brought up his victory next door as he sought to remind voters of his frequent visits to Alabama during his two decades in Congress.
“Newt’s in pretty good shape in Alabama. He really connects with people in Alabama because he’s a Southerner and he talks our lingo, and because he’s fearless about saying what he thinks,” said Jack Campbell, a GOP political consultant in Montgomery who isn’t aligned with any campaign. “People like that he’s a breath of fresh air. You never know with some of the other candidates.”
Gingrich’s message resonated with some voters. Tim Adamson, a 55-year-old retired Alabama corrections officer, said he didn’t believe a “media-anointed front-runner” would win the election and said Gingrich had more appeal in the South than Romney and other rivals.
“We’re a lot more conservative down here,” Adamson said.
The irony that the thrice-married Gingrich’s political fate hinges on deeply conservative Southern supporters isn’t lost on the voters. Yet some have grown tired of hearing about the candidate’s two divorces and acknowledged marital infidelity.
“I know he has a past,” said Tammara Butler, who cast her ballot for Gingrich in the Georgia primary. “But who amongst us doesn’t?”
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)