When a friend caught iconic comedian W.C. Fields reading a Bible shortly before his death, he asked Fields what he was doing. “I’m looking for loopholes,” Fields replied.
In recent weeks, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — one of American politics’ most colorful and unlikeable political figures — has seemed like someone frantically looking for loopholes as he slides to the end of his political life. And what a sad ending it had become.
No more print reporters are embedded with his campaign. Gingrich was reportedly charging $50 to have a picture taken with him at campaign events. Who does he think he is? Charlie Sheen? Sheen was “Winning!” and Gingrich in recent months has been “Losing!” — losing primaries, losing his status as the surging Anti-Romney to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, losing respect among establishment GOPers who wanted him out of the race, and losing his briefly refurbished image due to his over-the-top political rhetoric.
It’s finally time to write the political obituary of Newt Gingrich. And it couldn’t happen to a (less) nicer guy.
Walter Shapiro, The New Republic’s columnist who has followed Gingrich for many years, captured this final phase of Gingrich’s political career perfectly.
“Despite Newt Gingrich’s best efforts, it looks like the world is going to have to save itself. A humiliating third-place finish in [the] Louisiana primary should have extinguished the last embers of Gingrich’s wildfire dream of a second-ballot victory at the GOP Convention…How hard it must be for Gingrich at 68 to accept that his active political career is over for good,” Shapiro wrote.
“Gingrich’s long Harold Stassen-esque good-bye from the 2012 campaign has already obscured memories of how stunningly close Newt came to dethroning Mitt as the king of inevitability. Resurrected through compelling debate performances, Gingrich led all the Iowa [polls] for a month during the late fall. What deflated Gingrich in Iowa was his own puffed-up sense of entitlement as much as the pro-Romney super PAC attack ads…”
Due to solid debate performances, Gingrich rose from a baggage-weighted, Clinton-era political polarizer has-been to self-rebranded, serious, thoughtful conservative. Then, just as all his polls soared, he talked about putting a permanent colony on the moon, jailing “activist” judges, putting kids to work in schools as janitors and how he didn’t need to respond to other Republicans because he was GOING to be his party’s nominee. The new Newt morphed into a blowfish.
In recent months, Gingrich seemed to be pursuing a bitter, personal vendetta to deny former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the nomination. He was also widely condemned for saying President Barack Obama’s comment that killed teen Trayvon Martin “could have been my son” was “disgraceful.”
Gingrich, the Daily Beast’s Jesse Singal wrote, is “the last person you’d expect to feel a trace of pity for. But watching [him] mortgage every last trace of dignity over the last few days, watching him say asinine thing after asinine thing in a flailing, desperate, futile attempt to stay in the news and wrench approval out of millions of hard-line conservative voters who wouldn’t support him if the Gipper himself rode down from heaven on a B-movie steed and personally told them to, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy for a rather unlikable man, for a guy who suggested just a few months ago that child labor laws are ‘stupid.’”
Gingrich is popular with the media because he’s an endless quote machine. Begged the New York Times Frank Bruni: “I implore Fox News to pull up its drawbridge, CNN to bolt its doors. If a Newt falls in the forest and not a single news anchor listens, can he really hang around?”
He’ll be around. He’ll sell his books and DVDs. But, in the end, Gingrich is doomed to political hell. He’ll be marginalized and disdained, his image forever damaged by destruction of his successful rebranding — a rebranding he himself brilliantly engineered, then obliterated.
Maybe one day he’ll be elected to a council on a colony on the moon.
Copyright 2012 Joe Gandelman. This weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
UPDATES: Since this column was written Tuesday morning there have been some new developments.
—Gingrich has scaled back his campaign:
Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO.
Michael Krull, a former advance man and a college friend of Callista Gingrich’s who took over the campaign after a staff exodus in June, was replaced last weekend by Vince Haley, who has worked for Gingrich for nine years and currently is deputy campaign manager and policy director.
“We’re focusing exclusively on what it’ll take to win what we’re going to be calling a big-choice convention in August,” DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Gingrich officials declined to specify who else besides Krull would be leaving. “Not getting into it right now besides Krull,” DeSantis said.
But another campaign official said the layoffs would largely affect junior and advance staff, the latter of which was contracted out to Gordon James Public Relations. Gingrich consultant Kellyanne Conway and political director Martin Baker will both retain their roles, according to officials. The advance staff also received word on Tuesday afternoon to submit their final expense reports.
There is no real reason to believe that these drastic measures to turnaround a flailing campaign can save the former House speaker’s candidacy for a third time
Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has been the primary source of funding for Winning Our Future, the super-PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, says the candidate is “at the end of his line.”
“It appears as though he’s at the end of his — at the end of his line,” Adelson told a Jewish leadership conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, according to a report in the Jewish Journal. “ ‘Cause, I mean, mathematically, he can’t get anywhere near the numbers, and there’s not — unlikely there’ll be a brokered convention.”
Adelson and his family have donated more than $16 million to the Gingrich super-PAC to date, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, with the most recent contribution of $5.5 million coming in late February.
At the time, many speculated that it was the last cash the super-PAC would see from its largest donor, and Wednesday’s comments, coupled with Gingrich’s sinking campaign, bolster that view.
Other comments made by Adelson, though, make it seem unlikely that he’ll use his wealth to back any of the other candidates, at least for now. Adelson said of Rick Santorum, “I don’t want him running my country,” and said that Mitt Romney is “not the bold decisionmaker like Newt Gingrich is.”
–It appears as if Gringrich met with Romney and it didn’t go well:
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich met secretly with GOP rival Mitt Romney on Saturday, according to a source close to the campaign, but the former House speaker says he has made no deal to end his bid for the GOP nomination.
Mr. Gingrich, responding to questions from The Washington Times, did not deny the meeting, but explicitly said he hasn’t been offered a position in a potential Romney administration in exchange for dropping out.
Nor, he said, is there a deal to have Mr. Romney’s big donors help retire Mr. Gingrich’s campaign debt of more than $1 million.
“There is no agreement of any kind, and I plan to go all the way to Tampa,” Mr. Gingrich said, referring to the August GOP presi[JUMP]dential nominating convention in Florida.
Mr. Gingrich announced Tuesday that he was “downsizing the campaign, not suspending it. I am in Maryland, North Carolina and Delaware next week. We have events already scheduled in Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Missouri.”
According to a source close to the Gingrich campaign, the two GOP rivals met early on the day of the Louisiana primary at Mr. Romney’s hotel in New Orleans.
On Tuesday, the former House speaker signaled that he is toning down the anti-Romney rhetoric he has used on the campaign circuit, telling reporters while campaigning in Annapolis that, “Obviously I will support [Mitt Romney] and will be delighted to do anything I can to help defeat Barack Obama.”
But Wednesday, the former congressman from Georgia struck a defiant note again. “Romney has to earn this. It’s not going to be given to him,” he told Washington-based radio station WTOP.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.