Newt Gingrich, Agent of Chaos

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Liberated from the fiction of actually trying to become president, Gingrich has become his truest self -- a gleeful saboteur.

If there's one thing we know about Newt Gingrich, it's that he is a visionary. We know this because he tells us so, over and over again.

Even Gingrich, however, cannot quite envision a future in which he becomes the 2012 Republican nominee by securing a majority of delegates in advance of the convention this August. Instead, he has an altogether more revolutionary plan, as he told Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday:

I think it's very possible we're going to be at the end of all the primaries on June 26 and have nobody at 1,144.

And then we're going to have a conversation about who would be the best person to defeat Barack Obama, and equally important, who'd be the best person to solve America's problems and to move us in the right direction.

So next week in Louisiana is only half-time. We literally have half of all the delegates left to come. And I think we'll keep picking up delegates. It's a three-way race, I think, at the present time. I'm third among the three, but we're continuing to campaign, continuing to develop ideas. And I have a hunch that just as has happened in the past, the more we watch Romney and Santorum fight, the more attractive I'll look and the more I will regain strength as people look at my solutions, rather than politics as usual.

I don't pretend to be a traditional politician. I'm somebody who wants to really have very large-scale change in Washington.

In various reports, Gingrich and his supporters continue to insist that he has no plans to quit the race. "I don't care," he said in another Fox interview Tuesday, in response to the question of whether he felt pressure to leave.

There has been much analysis of whether Gingrich remaining in the race helps Mitt Romney (by taking votes away from Rick Santorum) or, rather, helps Santorum (by taking delegates off the table and making it harder for Romney to get to the magic number of 1,144). I am agnostic on that question, though I tend to think Santorum overestimates his chances in a one-on-one with Romney.

But there is something frankly delightful, to coin a phrase, about seeing Gingrich totally unleashed in this way. No longer must he maintain the thin fiction of running a campaign with the actual, realistic goal of becoming president. He is free to act as a pure agent of chaos.

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Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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