Gingrich Turns to Guerrilla Tactics, Takes Campaign Into the Mountains

Newt Gingrich is not dropping out, and he wishes everyone would please stop asking.

The story has been the same for weeks, Gingrich fares poorly in a primary and the media talks about how he’s irrelevant and suggests that he should just go away and stop wasting everyone’s time.  Except, Gingrich says, he’s not going away… he’s going to the convention in Tampa no matter what happens.

Things have changed a little bit with news of last week’s high profile restructuring of Gingrich’s campaign. Facing dwindling fundraising and a collapse in most polls, the organization is now retooling and cutting staff.

Deputy campaign manager Vince Haley takes over from current campaign chief Michael Krull. The campaign’s spokesman, Joe DeSantis, told the media that the candidate will continue to visit primary states and will still actively pursue delegates.  But the schedule will be less hectic, and as a result, less expensive.

“We think that a big part of how we succeed is getting back to core Gingrich, which is a focus on big ideas and positive solutions – having someone who is intimately aware of Newt’s policy positions and the way things are framed, and has been working with Newt for so long on the policy front. We think that having him [Haley] as the campaign manager is very important,” DeSantis told Politico.

Being the history buff that he is, Gingrich has likely pondered what would have happened near the end of the Civil War if elements of the remaining Confederate armies had retreated into the mountains and swamps to wage a an extended armed resistance.

Instead of trying to fight every battle and compete in every primary from here on out, the nearly broke Gingrich organization will conserve resources and focus on trying to acquire delegates opportunistically in the remaining proportional allocation primary states.  The plan is to, essentially, head for the hills and try to survive as long as possible in case some miracle happens that changes the larger situation.

Currently holding a little more than 10% of the delegates he would need to secure the nomination, Gingrich is betting big on tiny Delaware in late April and should be able to pick up at least some delegates in primaries in North Carolina, Oregon, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas.

Delaware is a winner-take-all contest with 17 delegates in play.

North Carolina and Oregon allocate their delegates proportionately and so Gingrich is all but guaranteed a slice of the pie in those two contests.  How much of a slice will depend on how well his poll numbers hold up in the face of growing Romney momentum.  And how much time and money he’s willing to spend on those contests.

A Public Policy Polling survey had Gingrich at 19% in North Carolina as of last week, which would mean that state could award as many as 10 delegates to the former Speaker.

A SurveyUSA poll in mid-March put Gingrich in third place with the support of 14% of Republican voters  in the state of Oregon.  That showing would net the Gingrich campaign 3 or 4 additional delegates.

Kentucky and Arkansas use a hybrid of winner-take-all and proportional allocation to select their delegates, so campaigning in those states could be risky… but if Gingrich can top 15% in both he could pick up another dozen delegates between those two contests.

And then there’s Texas, where Gingrich is currently polling in third with about 20% of the vote.  He has an organization there and the endorsement of Governor Rick Perry.  With 152 delegates at stake in a proportional representation split, it’s easy to see how 30 or 40 of them could fall into the former Speaker’s column.

What would make the whole contest far more interesting for Gingrich is if Rick Santorum loses his home state of Pennsylvania on April 24, and then decides to drop out of the race.

At that point, Gingrich could have a one-on-one shot at Romney in a handful of key Southern states, perhaps even dealing the presumptive nominee an embarrassing loss in a state like Arkansas or Texas.   Yet even in this scenario, short of a monumental Romney scandal, it seems impossible to see how the former Speaker can chart a course to victory at the convention.

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