I don’t think Newt Gingrich has a realistic chance of winning the presidential nomination, but I think those angry at him for refusing to exit the race in favor of Rick Santorum are missing an important point: Gingrich doesn’t consider himself to be a spoiler. He considers himself to be at the same level as Santorum in voter support, and sees no reason why it shouldn’t be Santorum who exits the race instead of him.
Why? Because the Gingrich team, quite reasonably, doesn’t think the proper evaluation of electoral outcomes to date is to count up the number of primaries or caucuses each candidate has won. In reality, there is a big difference between winning hundreds of thousands of votes in Georgia and a few thousand votes in North Dakota. According to the latest count of all votes cast in the Republican presidential race so far, Mitt Romney has won about 41 percent of the “popular vote,” while Santorum has won 25 percent, Gingrich 23 percent, and Paul 11 percent.
Of course, what matters in the end is the number of delegates won, not the number of contests or votes won. There are varying counts, but let’s use the RealClearPolitics one. That has Romney at 404, Santorum at 161, Gingrich at 105, and Paul at 61. Right now, Gingrich doesn’t see himself as being in a significantly different position from Santorum’s. They have each gotten about a quarter of the votes cast so far and Santorum has a healthy but hardly overwhelming edge in delegates.
By this reasoning, it will take a while for Santorum to get so far ahead of Gingrich that the spoiler argument might persuade the latter to go. For the former speaker of the house, who can at least be charitably described as self-confident, it won’t be an easy sell.