Minnesota, however, is different. Here, Santorum is actually ahead in a close race. The former Pennsylvania senator bests Romney by 29%-27% with Gingrich a close third at 22% and Paul not far behind with 19%. Given the difficulty in determining who will be attending the caucuses on Tuesday night, Minnesota could very well be a surprise as any one of the challengers could catch lightening in a bottle and temporarily derail Romney’s march to the nomination.
Otherwise, later primaries in February do not bode well for the former speaker’s chances. A Rasmussen poll released earlier this week shows Gingrich far behind Romney in Arizona 48%-24% while the news from Michigan is no better. The state where Romney was born and where his father served as governor back in the 1960s is giving their favorite son a comfortable 15% lead over Gingrich. Both Arizona and Michigan will hold their primaries on February 28 — exactly one week before the Super Tuesday contests.
At his press conference on Saturday evening, Gingrich was still in a combative mood. He railed against Romney as a “George Soros-approved moderate,” and accused Romney of running “the most dishonest, dirty campaign I’ve seen in American politics.” Gone from the Gingrich campaign is any pretense that he is running a positive race. Gingrich said that he had no choice but to go negative due to the “level of ruthlessness and the level of dishonesty” by Romney.
Gingrich outlined a strategy that he says will allow him to catch up to Romney in the delegate count:
“Our commitment is to seek to find a series of victories which by the end of the Texas primary will leave us about at parity with Gov. Romney,” Gingrich said. “And from that point forward, to see if we can actually win the nomination.”
One thing is for sure; he can’t keep losing primaries and caucuses by 2-1 margins and expect to stay close. He must have a breakthrough somewhere and the former speaker is pointing to Super Tuesday to give his campaign a needed boost and allow him to start clawing his way back into the race.
The March 6 gaggle of 10 primaries and caucuses will feature several states where Gingrich has a good chance to do well, including his home state of Georgia and the Bible Belt states of Tennessee and Oklahoma. If Gingrich plans on capturing any momentum going into the heavy part of the primary schedule where victories in some states are winner take all contests and will thus allow him to leap back into contention, he will need to beat Romney on Super Tuesday. Otherwise, his quest for the nomination will become even more of a long shot than it is today.
Perhaps just as importantly is what Gingrich is doing by leveling such harsh criticisms of Mitt Romney. Whether Gingrich will succeed in knocking Romney down a few pegs in order to get back in the race isn’t as significant as the potential damage the former speaker is doing to the now likely GOP nominee in the run-up to the fall campaign. Perhaps the attacks will sharpen the ability of the Romney camp to respond to what promises to be vicious attacks by the Obama operation in the fall. Or they may hand the Democrats a playbook on how to run a successful negative campaign against their rival.
Either way, Gingrich will ignore the criticism and carry forward as long as he has a chance to win.
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