Newt won’t exit, thought others should

Newt Gingrich is refusing to swallow his own medicine.

The former Speaker of the House (R-Ga.) rejects calls from Republicans to drop out of the presidential race, but he has a long history of telling other GOP White House hopefuls to do so.

Gingrich had often argued the exact case his doubters are citing against him now: that a prolonged intraparty squabble is self-serving and threatens to hurt Republicans in the general election.

During the 1996 presidential primary, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) — who resigned his Senate seat during the primary to focus on the race — earned Gingrich’s endorsement, and a fiery insistence that opponents clear the field.

He declared ex-Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander — now a senator — “finished” in his presidential bid after a loss in the South Carolina primary, mocking Alexander’s low poll numbers and inability to appeal to voters outside the Deep South.

“Lamar had a good clean shot, but when you’re down to eight or nine percent, the strategy of waiting for Dole to wear out is not going to work,” Gingrich said at the time.

Gingrich now criticizes Dole as “a moderate.” 

Dole, like Alexander, supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president.

Gingrich in 1996 also called on publisher Steve Forbes to bow out of his bid for the presidency.

“[Forbes’s exit] would be more profitable for the party and for the country than continuing to squabble from inside the party,” Gingrich told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And Pat Buchanan, Gingrich said back then, should fold up his tent.

The Georgia lawmaker frequently blasted the commentator for staying in the 1996 race, claiming he was doing so even though he knew no one but Dole had a shot to oust then-President Clinton from office. Gingrich warned that Buchanan risked undermining his message by staying in the competition.

“The longer Pat campaigns, the less effect he’s going to have,” Gingrich said during a visit to Atlanta, according to the Akron, Ohio, Beacon Journal. “He’s made his point. People understand his message. Now it’s time to be part of the team.”

Buchanan said Gingrich made a similar call during his 1992 primary challenge of then-President George H.W. Bush, despite a better-than-expected showing in early contests.

“That’s Newt’s way, but we ignored him and frankly some of the things he said,” Buchanan told The Hill.

“I think Newt’s problem is this — he’s deeply motivated by a desire to exact retribution on Romney, but the longer he stays in the race, the harder he makes it for that retribution to happen,” Buchanan added.

Asked why the 2012 cycle was different, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told The Hill that the other GOP candidates are simply not strong enough to beat President Obama.

“Newt is the only candidate who can defeat Obama. [Rick] Santorum and Romney will lose,” Hammond said.

Backers of Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum find such a claim laughable. Following the Super Tuesday elections, Romney’s campaign called on his rivals to get out of the race. Santorum’s supporters have likewise urged Gingrich to give up.

Gingrich has repeatedly said he is committed to continuing his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in August.

Many Republicans on and off Capitol Hill are frustrated with Gingrich, criticizing his “arrogance” and what they call his willingness to drive the GOP into the ground. GOP lawmakers were incensed at Gingrich’s initial criticism of the House Republican budget blueprint offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as well as his attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital.

There is growing concern that Gingrich’s game plan hinges on Romney not reaching the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination. Such a scenario could make Gingrich a powerful player at the convention in Tampa.

The former Speaker’s campaign is highlighting a Gallup poll released Friday that shows 40 percent of Gingrich’s supporters said Romney was their second choice, compared to 39 percent for Santorum.

The campaign argues the figures clearly show that conventional wisdom is wrong and that a Gingrich exit would help Romney.

Gingrich made that case last Thursday during an appearance on the Laura Ingraham Show: “I think one of the reasons that Mitt Romney’s been much less effective since Santorum emerged is that he’s had to split his attacks. It’s very hard for him to attack both of us. There’s real danger, from his perspective, that attacking one of us just drives votes to the other, and he still doesn’t get the votes.”

Gingrich has also admitted that he erred in calling for Santorum’s exit from the race after he won South Carolina.

“[Santorum] stayed in … suddenly he very cleverly went to three states nobody else went to, and he became the media darling and bounced back,” Gingrich said on CNN of the former senator’s wins in Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas.

But some Republicans fear that Gingrich is more concerned with his pride — bruised by the Romney campaign’s relentless attack ads — than a genuine fear that a Romney nomination would doom the party in the general election.

“Gingrich’s final act could be kingmaker by getting out and endorsing, but pride cometh before the fall. Gingrich is in mid fall,” Erick Erickson wrote last week on Red State.

“I think Santorum has outclassed and beaten Newt Gingrich and deserves a chance at the clean shot at Romney,” National Review editor Rich Lowry said Sunday on CBS.

While Gingrich is not expected to be competitive in the Illinois primary on Tuesday, he could do well in Saturday’s contest in Louisiana. But instead of campaigning there or elsewhere, Gingrich spent the weekend viewing cherry blossoms in the nation’s capital.