Krystal Ball: Only Newt Gingrich Decides When He Gets Out

Newt Gingrich shouldn’t drop out of the presidential race as long as he feels that he has something to say and to contribute, and he has the desire and fire in his belly to go through the process.

The GOP establishment hasn’t helped Gingrich in his race, and its calls for him to sacrifice for party unity are likely to fall on deaf ears. The amount of pressure these Republicans can put on Gingrich is marginal, since they are neither endorsing nor funding him.

Also, the idea that somehow Newt will lose his dignity if he stays in the race beyond his natural shelf-life…is, well, a bit absurd given who Newt Gingrich is and how he comports himself.

The argument that somehow Santorum would dominate Romney without Gingrich in the race is also misplaced, for several reasons. Firstly, I am deeply suspicious of the underlying rationale of this argument.

It’s the same argument that suggests that Ralph Nader was responsible for Al Gore’s loss in 2000 and not Gore’s anemic campaigning that brought the race to the margin of error. This same argument falls flat with Santorum. Santorum is gaining ground, strength, and momentum from the way he is running his campaign.

Facts on the ground may conspire to make Newt largely irrelevant, as voters line up behind either Santorum or Romney. However, if Santorum loses to Romney, it’s his own fault. Not Newt Gingrich’s.

In addition, the psychology of human beings acting in groups is sufficiently laden with chaos and unpredictability that we should be deeply suspicious of any pat theory that claims to explain electoral dynamics and what will happen if someone drops out. No one knows.

But Newt Gingrich, by his own moxie and virtue of Sheldon Adelson’s money, has earned/bought a seat at the table. He and Sheldon deserve to decide when to get up from the table. I do suspect though, that were Santorum to proffer a vice presidential nomination, Newt could be induced to move on. After a bruising night on his home turf in the South, the fire in Newt’s belly may well be growing dim.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from US News Debate Club)

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