Newt Exit Countdown: 10 Days?

By Robert Wright

Last night CNN commentator David Gergen said of Newt Gingrich, "It's like he's in a different reality."

Some might say this insight dawned on Gergen more than a quarter of a century after the evidence for it became insurmountable. But, in Gergen's defense, he wasn't making an overall appraisal of Newt's mental health; he was talking about the concession speech Gingrich had just delivered.

And, indeed, the speech made few clear references to the universe you and I live in. Gingrich, having just seen his chances of winning the Republican nomination drop to less than one percent, set about describing the things he would do the day he took the oath of office.

Worse still, as he ticked these things off, he showed signs of more fine-grained disorientation. He said he would "instruct the State Department that day to open the embassy in Jerusalem and recognize Israel." I get the part about moving the embassy to Jerusalem. But: Recognize Israel? I was under the impression that we'd already recognized Israel. Maybe he meant Palestine? No, I guess we can rule out that hypothesis.

This could get fun, folks. We're on a magical mystery tour, and Newt is our tourguide.

But, pessimist that I am, I fear that the journey is close to its end. I'm betting Newt will pull the plug before Super Tuesday, and maybe even within ten days. My logic:

1) Casino-magnate sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson will presumably cut off Newt's $5-million-per-week allowance. Surely Adelson's friends will explain to him that at this point each dollar for Newt just increases the chances that Obama will defeat Romney. Conceivably Gingrich could counter that by promising to run a 100-percent positive campaign. But I'm guessing the Adelson spigot is now off.

2) Once the money runs out, campaigning can become un-fun. Last night Newt, in yet another megalomaniacal reference to historical figures that are nearly as momentous as himself, closed his speech by pledging "my life, my fortune, my sacred honor." (It's the pledge made by the signatories of the Declaration of Independence to each other.) But is he serious about the "fortune" part? I can't see him persisting beyond the point where campaign expenses start cutting into Callista's hairspray budget.

3) Newt is addicted to public adoration. The flip side is that, when the crowds start dwindling, he'll feel withdrawal. And there's a reason they call it "withdrawal."

I'm not a political sage, but I assume the experts are right when they say that February voting is unlikely to bring any good news for Gingrich. So as of a week from now, he'll have lost several caucuses and a non-binding primary. And the view ahead will look like this: He has to wait three more weeks for two more primaries that he's going to lose (Arizona and Michigan)--after which, with a week still left until Super Tuesday, he'll have zero momentum.  

Newt's crazy, but he's not that crazy. Is he?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/02/newt-exit-countdown-10-days/252333/