LAS VEGAS -- Newt Gingrich's increasingly quixotic quest for the Republican presidential nomination will go on, even after he received a drubbing in Saturday night's Nevada caucuses.
The former House speaker sought to dispel rumors that he would be dropping out of the race in a press conference that, befitting its location -- the Palazzo hotel on the Las Vegas strip -- was heavy on pompousness and show.
"Every primary day or caucus day," a defiant Gingrich declared, "the Romney headquarters in Boston sends out the rumor that they believe I will withdraw, which is of course their greatest fantasy."
Perhaps a bit of political gamesmanship was behind the rumors that Gingrich would drop out that surfaced late Saturday. But it's not necessarily the campaign of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, that is trying to turn the Republican primary into scripted fantasia. Gingrich may well keep campaigning until the Republican convention in Tampa. But sober-minded analyses don't give him much, if any, shot at success.
The month of February, which brings with it a slate of primaries and caucuses that favor either Romney or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), promises to be brutal for Gingrich. His campaign is reportedly low on cash. He has no formal infrastructure in place in most states and didn't even make it on Virginia's ballot. Pressed on all these points, however, his responses drifted between insolence and confusion.
"I don't understand where that report came from, because it doesn't fit our internal numbers," he said of stories that his campaign was still $600,000 in debt. "Some clever person went back and jerry-rigged the last three months."
"I couldn't understand those articles," he said of reports earlier this week that he, not Romney, would be receiving Donald Trump's endorsement. "We all thought that was kind of weird ... there are few people better at manipulating the press than Donald Trump and he proved it once again. You have to admire the sheer chutzpah."
"I haven't seen the reports, I have no idea what they are referring to and I'd be happy to look at it," Gingrich said of a New York Times story that asserts that his ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were more extensive than he has previously disclosed.
He was, he concluded, "mildly amazed at the news media's desperation to find some excuse to say, wouldn't you please quit this evening."
The truth, of course, is that the press would love nothing more than for him to continue. Even an increasingly dull primary race is better than no race at all. But signs that his campaign has lost its defining rationale are mounting.
Instead of giving a speech on Saturday night, Gingrich chose to hold a press conference. By the time he was supposed to take the stage -- at 11:00 p.m. EST -- there were roughly 40 members of the media in attendance and three actual Nevadans.
Pug Winkler explained that he and his two sons had "wanted to see the reaction" Gingrich had to his loss. They were longtime fans of the former speaker, owing to a chance meeting that Winkler had with Gingrich in the late 1990s that resulted in the two being pictured together on the cover of the Los Angeles Times. (The crowd was so sparse that at one point during the press conference, Winkler, sipping from a healthy glass of white wine, managed to walk over and have a brief chat with Gingrich's wife, Callista.)
By the time Gingrich entered the ballroom, located deep in the convention halls of the Palazzo -- a casino owned by his main benefactor, Sheldon Adelson -- the number of audience members in attendance had only slightly increased. He took to a makeshift stage, underneath giant seashell-like chandeliers.
Gingrich spoke for 25 minutes or so, gleefully pushing back on questions from the press. In the span of three minutes he decried the rise of negative ads, marveled at their effectiveness, and pledged to start bringing knives to the knife fight, only to turn around and proclaim: "I think we are going to make a whole series of positive speeches."
Of Romney, meanwhile, Gingrich said: "I had never before seen a person who I thought was a serious candidate for president be that fundamentally dishonest."
Mainly, however, the press conference was held not for Gingrich to outline his path to the nomination, but for him to convince onlookers that that path did, in fact, exist.
"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."
"I am a candidate for president of the United States. I will be a candidate for president of the United States," he said. "We will go to Tampa."
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