What has Newt Gingrich been up to, during this period of time in which he keeps losing primaries and receives daily admonitions to quit the race? Well, he's been biding his time and reading books -- specifically "Ballots And Bandwagons," which primarily concerns itself with "the brokered 1920 convention that resulted in the nomination of Warren G. Harding." Ahh, yes! Clever, clever Newt...ever the historian, he's got convention chaos on the brain, and he's studying up on how to wreak a little of his own -- the unfortunate comparison to Harding (to which George Will quipped, "talk about defining aspirations down") notwithstanding.
Unfortunately for Gingrich, it seems that maybe he should have paid closer attention to some more current matters. Like, say, the RNC rules. As Alex Moe reports for NBC News:
But an RNC rule stipulating that candidates seeking the nomination must have won a plurality of votes in at least five states could complicate Gingrich’s already far-fetched strategy. RNC rule No. 40 states:
"Nominations(b) Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a plurality of the delegates from each of five (5) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination."
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has taken great pains to point out that this is "an important rule," probably because he really does not want nonsense at his convention.
Gingrich, of course, has only won two states so far -- South Carolina and Georgia -- and he doesn't really have any decent prospects in the future to add to that total. According to Moe, the need to win more states has been acknowledged by "a source close to the Gingrich campaign," who adds, “I don’t think he [Gingrich] would be doing this if he didn’t think there was a road to winning.” (I wouldn't be too sure about that, actually!)
Does Gingrich have options? Yes, slim though they may be. Moe reports that "a candidate may still be nominated at the convention if they are able to garner a plurality of five states on the floor" -- though that would require there to be a sufficient number of unbound delegates to make that happen. Without the five states, Gingrich would not be able to submit his name for nomination or levy a credentials challenge at the convention. (Of course, after the first ballot, all delegates are theoretically unbound...but let's stop there before I have start contemplating any number of crazily unlikely outcomes.)
Now, it's important to point out that so far, I've discussed this matter in fairly realistic terms. But as John Dickerson points out, a full understanding of Gingrich's plan requires one to untether oneself from conventional reality and just let go, dude. As Dickerson relates: "If [Gingrich] can't get on the ballot, he can't get nominated. True enough, you earthbound simpleton, but you are refusing to embrace Gingrich's bold vision for winning as he and his aides have articulated it for the last several weeks."
Okay, then, let us all bliss out, in Newtcuckooland, with Dickerson:
By the end of primary season in late June, the Republican Party will have "a real conversation," as Gingrich calls it, about who can defeat Barack Obama. In that chat, Gingrich, who will likely be more than 800 delegates behind Mitt Romney, will convince hundreds of delegates that he is the best person to beat Obama. They will suddenly drop their allegiance to other candidates and at the Tampa convention 1,144 of them will vote for Gingrich. Since rule 40(b) applies to your delegate count at the convention—and not at the time the states vote—Gingrich will rise on the shoulders of these newly converted delegates and easily smash the five-state threshold to get on the ballot. Did you think something like Rule 40(b) could stop a man of destiny?
A man of destiny? No. A man who couldn't get on the ballot in his home state? Oh, my, yes!
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