Mitt Romney's Debt to Newt Gingrich

More

Given the way Gingrich wore out his welcome, Romney could easily leave him out in the cold. But he owes his rival for one big favor.

romneygingrich.banner.jpg
Reuters

Newt Gingrich is preparing to drop out of the presidential race, and not a moment too soon. Barring some change in the rules of physics and the Republican National Committee, it has long been and continues to be impossible for him to gather enough delegates to oust Mitt Romney as the party's nominee -- something he has periodically acknowledged, even as he continues to amble from state to state, zombielike, visiting zoos and declaring himself the "last conservative standing."

Gingrich plans to endorse Romney when he exits the race next week -- something Rick Santorum, who dropped out April 10, still hasn't done -- and Romney appears eager to accept the endorsement. He called Gingrich Wednesday morning, according to ABC News, to say "that if [Gingrich] was going to end his campaign, he would want Newt to be part of his team," in the words of a Gingrich adviser. Gingrich, for his part, assured Romney his endorsement would be "full-throated and without reservation."

It will be interesting to see what sort of accommodation gets made between the two men, and between Romney and Santorum when they finally have their rapprochement. (The two have a meeting planned for May 4.) Both Gingrich and Santorum have made noises about wanting to be a voice for conservatives in the GOP and to see that Romney doesn't stray too far to the center as he campaigns toward November. Both arguably overstayed their welcome in the primary, continuing to campaign -- and to damage Romney and the party -- past the point where there was any constructive rationale for their candidacy. In contrast to the generally positive vibes between Romney's camp and that of still-campaigning Rep. Ron Paul, there's little love between Team Romney and the Santorum and Gingrich camps -- understandably so.

With few delegates at their disposal and even fewer brownie points on the board, Gingrich and Santorum would seem to be in poor position to demand any consideration from Romney. This is especially true for Gingrich. Santorum has a national following and constituency among social conservatives, and won 11 state contests in the primary. Gingrich, whose constituency has now dwindled to the 27 percent of Delaware Republicans who believe Romney should have more aggressively sought their votes, and who won just two states, has no such leverage. If Romney wanted to get back at him -- for criticizing his work in the private sector, accusing him of "pious baloney," and describing him time and again as an unelectable "Massachusetts moderate" -- he could probably leave the former House Speaker out in the cold with minimal consequences.

But Romney does owe Gingrich, and Santorum, for one major favor they did for him. By behaving childishly and running totally amateurish campaigns, they made Romney look good. Next to Santorum's inability to stay on message, Romney's gaffes looked minor. Next to Gingrich's petulant posturing, Romney looked like a grown-up. Next to both men's improvised, bare-bones efforts, Romney's flawed operation looked like the Cadillac of political campaigns.

In losing in the most undignified manner possible, Gingrich made Romney shine. And for that, Romney owes Gingrich his gratitude.

Jump to comments
Presented by

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

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In