WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich won the Republican presidential primary in Georgia on Tuesday. He isn't likely to win any of the night's other states, but it was enough to keep his campaign alive.
"It's all right, there are lots of bunny rabbits that run through, I'm the tortoise," he said in Atlanta, Ga., after results came in from the state. "I just take one step at a time."
Gingrich is fighting to remain in the race, up against the seemingly-inevitable Mitt Romney and his biggest threat, Rick Santorum, along with libertarian-minded Ron Paul. But as the primary stretches forward, some conservatives are eager for the former House speaker to step aside, hoping his supporters would instead coalesce around Santorum. Tuesday showed that's not going to happen soon.
Georgia was significant for Gingrich because he had so much to lose there. He served as a U.S. representative from the state for more than two decades, and before that worked as a professor at West Georgia College. He dedicated significant time to campaigning in the state, spending eight full days there ahead of Super Tuesday, according to NBC. Winning in Georgia was important for optics: How could he win elsewhere if he couldn't win there?
"I said at the very peak of the Santorum surge and all of this stuff, if I can't carry my home state where people know me, I would have no credibility," Gingrich said after his win.
Now he can try to make a case for that credibility, despite poor finishes elsewhere, and indicated Tuesday that he is still committed to staying in the race until the Republican National Convention in August.
But if Gingrich does not gain more traction as the race continues, he is likely to face pressure from within the party to drop out so that Republicans opposed to Romney can coalesce behind someone else. Super Tuesday may solidify Romney's status as front-runner, but Santorum could come close -- and if Gingrich drops out, it could boost the former Pennsylvania senator even more in the future.
It's certainly what the Santorum campaign is hoping for, and it will continue to push for Gingrich to leave the race.
"Gingrich today predicted that he was going to win at least two states and do extremely well in all the southern states," Santorum strategist John Brabender told The Huffington Post's Jon Ward on Tuesday. "If he finishes third in all the southern states except Georgia, the path is for him to move aside and let us have a one-on-one shot with Romney. That's the path."
Gingrich reiterated that dropping out is not in his plan, pointing out that he will head to Alabama on Wednesday and Mississippi on Thursday, both sites of March 13 primaries. He will also receive Secret Service protection beginning on Wednesday, and made a plea for donations through Twitter.
"It is gratifying to win my home state so decisively to launch our March Momentum Money Bomb," the campaign wrote on Twitter.
Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who has been tough on Gingrich in the past, said after the Georgia speech that it was "much too long" and pointed out that "he may not get another victory for a while."
Another commentator joked that it would be Gingrich's last chance for a victory speech.
"On the plus side: the next time you hear this Gingrich speech, it will have cost somebody $40,000," David Frum tweeted while Gingrich spoke, referring to his high speaking fees.
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