Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will suspend his presidential candidacy after winning just two Republican primaries and throw his support behind his party’s presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said.
The former U.S. speaker will announce his decision next week, Hammond said. Romney called Gingrich this morning after sweeping five primaries yesterday and invited him to join his campaign, Hammond said.
“At present time we’re trying to work through some details,” said Gingrich adviser Bob Walker, a former U.S. representative from Pennsylvania. “He’s talking to Governor Romney and the Republican National Committee about how he might be useful in the future.”
Gingrich, who had vowed to stay in the race until the party’s national convention convenes Aug. 27 in Tampa, Florida, said in an NBC interview on April 23 that he would reassess his candidacy based his showing in yesterday’s Delaware primary, where he had focused his recent campaigning. He came in second with 27 percent; Romney won with 56.5 percent.
Romney, 65, also coasted to victories in primaries yesterday in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Gingrich finished third or fourth in those votes.
Gingrich, 68, failed to build on his Jan. 21 victory in the South Carolina primary. That momentum sputtered in Florida’s Jan. 31 primary, the next contest, where Gingrich lost to Romney by 14 percentage points.
As the Republican race proceeded, the anti-Romney vote Gingrich sought moved to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who established himself as the main alternative to the former Massachusetts governor when he swept Feb. 7 contests in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. Santorum went on to win several other primaries while the only other one Gingrich captured was his home state of Georgia on March 6.
Gingrich rebuffed calls by Santorum supporters to drop out of the race to consolidate the anti-Romney vote.
Santorum suspended his bid April 10, all but assuring the Republican nomination for Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s nod four years ago. Romney’s remaining competitor is Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who has yet to win a primary or caucus.
Gingrich’s campaign listed $4.3 million in debts and obligations at the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission reports made public April 20. Gingrich owed himself $271,775 for travel, the reports showed.
Other large debts include more than $1 million to Moby Dick Airways and $49,502 to the Patriot Group for security services, according to the reports. Winning Our Future, a political action committee supportive of Gingrich, had almost $5.8 million cash on hand at the end of March. It listed no debt or outstanding loans. Billionaire casino executive Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave $20 million to the super-PAC to support Gingrich’s candidacy.
Gingrich in March cut his staff by a third and scaled back travel plans to conserve his resources.
Following Santorum’s exit from the campaign, he urged Santorum’s former supporters to make donations to his campaign. “As the last remaining conservative in this race, we urgently need your financial support,” Gingrich wrote in an e-mail fundraising pitch sent shortly after Santorum’s announcement.
Gingrich, who branded Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate,” portrayed himself as the only Republican who could successfully debate President Barack Obama and who offered “big solutions.”
The former Georgia congressman’s debate performances during the latter part of last year fueled his candidacy and spurred him to the lead in polls of Republican voters in Iowa, site of the caucuses that began the nomination voting on Jan. 3. In December he also benefited from Herman Cain’s departure from the race that month amid allegations of improper sexual conduct, which the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza Inc. denied. Cain endorsed Gingrich in January.
As Gingrich’s stature rose, his Republican critics grew more vocal and numerous. In an editorial published Dec. 15, the editors of the National Review warned Republicans against nominating Gingrich.
“The White House seems winnable next year, and with it a majority in both houses of Congress,” they wrote. “We fear that to nominate former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the front-runner in the polls, would be to blow this opportunity.”
A super-PAC supporting Romney, Restore Our Future, also began a media barrage against Gingrich, attacking him as a candidate with “a ton of baggage.”
An estimated $5.8 million was spent on television advertising in Iowa through Dec. 30, with $3.7 million financing negative ads, according to most recent data available from New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a company that tracks advertising. Most of those ads were directed against Gingrich.
The criticism of Gingrich focused extensively on his $1.6 million in earnings as an advocate for Freddie Mac, a mortgage-finance company seized by the government in 2008 after its stake in subprime loans pushed it to the brink of collapse, and his appearance that same year in a climate change advertisement with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Gingrich finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, which Santorum won. In South Carolina, he mounted a comeback after a strong debate performance in which attacked CNN John King for asking about the candidate’s second wife’s claim that he asked for an “open marriage” to carry on an affair with Callista Gingrich, his third and current wife.
In Florida, though, the new attention on his personal life contributed to his loss to Romney, and voters motivated by religious issues began shifting to Santorum.