I wanted to followup on Don’s post from yesterday about National Review urging Gingrich to exit the race. As I said in the comments, I owe NRO a slight mea culpa. I thought that by including Santorum (and Huntsman) with Romney as the candidates they thought worthy of the nomination they were merely blowing smoke. Yet they have given Santorum fairly favorable coverage, so much so that angry Romney fanboys like Old Fan think that NR is in the tank for Santorum. I still think the hatchet piece on Gingrich was out of line, so I’m not totally ready to forgive them for that.
As for the actual meat of their suggestion, there is much merit to it. There have been nine primaries and caucuses thus far. Gingrich was the landslide winner in South Carolina, but has otherwise done terribly. He’s finished a distant second twice, and has barely hovered around ten percent in the other contests. Right now one poll has Gingrich in fourth place behind Ron Paul, and other polls show a clear trend towards Rick Santorum as the favorite among the anti-Romneys. Now, polls have shifted mightily throughout the campaign season, so Gingrich shouldn’t head for the exits quite yet. But poor showings in Arizona and Michigan should just about do it for Newt. Considering the fact that the bulk of his supporters will likely flock to Santorum (where as Santorum supporters are evenly split between Romney and Newt as their backup choices), and that Newt is much more favorably disposed to Santorum than Romney, I would imagine that Newt will not stay in the race if he has another pair of fourth place finishes.
That being said, if National Review wants Gingrich out of the race the last thing it should have done is publish an editorial making this feeling public. Republican primary voters in general, and Gingrich supporters in particular have, to a large extent, been driven by spite. It’s practically impossible to read a screed written by a Gingrich supporter that doesn’t mention the “Establishment” once or a dozen times. Throw in the fact that National Review is already reviled with a special kind of intensity in camp Gingrich – and with good reason – and I can envision Gingrich supporters doubling down. Newt himself has shown that he is prone to fits of spite, so National Review may have just guaranteed that Newt will stay in the race longer than intended. In fact I’d submit that if National Review wanted Newt out of the race the best thing it could do is endorse the man.