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Newt's Game Plan (Yes, He Has One) | The Nation

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Ben Adler

Ben Adler

 The 2012 election, Republican politics and conservative media.

Newt's Game Plan (Yes, He Has One)

Every presidential candidate, even a delusional has-been such as Newt Gingrich, has to have a strategy. Gingrich’s strategy these last few weeks appears to have been a laser-like focus on the minuscule state of Delaware. His schedule is packed with appearances there, tempered only by the occasional foray to into other upcoming primary states such as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania or North Carolina. A host of Northeastern states will vote on Tuesday, and Gingrich seems to have decided that Delaware is where he will make his stand. It’s a strange idea, given Delaware’s minimal number of delegates to the Republican National Convention. 

Even stranger is that it may work. At least some of Delaware’s Republican political class has been buying in. Despite the fact that the Republican nomination is clearly going to Mitt Romney, Gingrich has managed to rack up endorsements from Delaware Republicans in the last two weeks. The press gets regular releases announcing a new Gingrich supporter in Delaware, each more obscure than the next. “Second Delaware GOP County Chairman Endorses Newt Gingrich for President,” was the headline on a recent missive from Saturday. On Sunday they announced that Bill Sahm, chair of the Northern New Castle County Region of the Delaware GOP, and Ingrid Sigler, former first lady of the National Rifle Association (and a Delawarean), had joined Team Gingrich.

But this raises the question: why would anyone endorse Gingrich when he has no chance of winning? It’s not like the small but steady trickle of Ron Paul endorsements. If you are a Republican who shares Paul’s views on civil liberties and foreign policy, you want to make a statement. What exactly is the statement being made by endorsing Gingrich?

The most common answer is probably contempt for Romney. One endorser, Hans Reigle, chairman of the Kent County Republican Party, actually went so far as to switch his support from Romney to Gingrich last week. “I previously endorsed Governor Romney, but since then Newt is the only candidate who has shown a willingness to meet and talk with Delaware voters for more than hour,” said Reigle.

The other answer appears to be a staunch refusal to accept reality. For example, I spoke with David Lawson, a Delaware Republican state senator who recently endorsed Gingrich. Lawson says Gingrich still has a shot at winning the nomination. “I believe there’s still choices on the menu,” says Lawson. “I don’t believe the news media should shove any candidate down the public’s throat. The voters haven’t spoken.”

Lawson clearly doesn’t buy Romney’s conversion to conservatism. “Gingrich has the background to move us forward, unlike Romney doing what he did in Massachusetts, that scares me,” says Lawson. In an interesting twist on what is usually an excuse Republicans make for Romney’s past record—that he was trying to win and govern in one of the most liberal states in the country—Lawson offers that as evidence of Romney’s liberalism. “You can’t be a conservative and be elected governor of Massachusetts,” says Lawson. “That’s Ted Kennedy territory. The Second Amendment was destroyed in Massachusetts under Romney.” (Romney signed a ban on many semi-automatic weapons while he was governor. Whether that “destroyed” the Second Amendment is, to say the least, a debatable proposition.) 

So why is Gingrich focusing so much time and energy on wooing minor players in a tiny state? The Gingrich campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But Lawson has a theory: if Gingrich wins Delaware, he says, “the news media would have to pay attention to him instead of writing him off on the back page.” Well, it’s a strategy.

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