Tonight, voters in Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, New York and Pennsylvania will cast their votes in their state's GOP primaries. Hey, remember the GOP primaries? Those were fun.
And, for all intents and purposes, I sort of figured that the primary season was a done deal, and now that Rick Santorum isn't standing astride the Keystone State, shouting "No!" at Mitt Romney, there wasn't much to be excited about. But it looks like I missed a memo or something, because I should apparently treat Newt Gingrich as if he's up to something game-changing in "the tiny but dangerous state of Delaware." Per Politico:
With Mitt Romney and the national press corps now focused on the general election, Gingrich is hoping to become the Christine O'Donnell of the 2012 race --
And ... I'm just going to stop you right there. To poach a quip from George Will, we are really defining aspiration down here, aren't we?
What is Gingrich pinning his hopes upon, in Delaware? The thinnest of vapors. There hasn't been any polling in Delaware on the GOP primary, so there are no numbers to cite in making a real-world assessment of his chances. What Gingrich has going for him is the fact that he's spent a lot of time in Delaware, while Romney has barely intruded into the lives of Blue Hen Staters. Gingrich's mere presence earned him the endorsement of Kent County GOP chair Hans Reigle, who said last week, "I previously endorsed Governor Romney, but since then Newt is the only candidate who has shown a willingness to meet and talk with Delaware voters for more than hour."
As Politico reports, Gingrich has since picked up the endorsement of "Priscilla Rakestraw, the longest-serving member of the Republican National Committee." It's an odd pairing. While Gingrich spokesperson R.C. Hammond is insisting that "Voters in Delaware...want a conservative nominee," Rakestraw is a well-known moderate, who is fending off her own challenge from her right flank. Per Dave Weigel:
Rakestraw...might have another motivation -- she is a few days away from a state convention fight that she's expected to lose. Endorsing the "last conservative standing" will prove... something or other about her bona fides, just in time.
Seems like Rakestraw is getting the better end of that deal.
Gingrich campaign sources tell the National Review that they will "reassess" the campaign if they fail to notch a "win or close second" in Delaware tonight. These words have almost no meaning. Delaware is a winner-take-all primary. If Newt wins, he gets all seventeen delegates. But a second place finish is as good as a last place finish. (Gingrich's hopes for finishing second hinge on beating Ron Paul, who hasn't competed in Delaware precisely because the state offers him no post-vote delegate-snatching game to play.)
In reality, only a win has much value for Gingrich, and it's not in the delegate count, which he will lose. If Gingrich still harbors any hope of getting to Tampa to call shenanigans on the whole operation, he'll need to get wins in five states. Only by clearing that threshold does he earn the right to get on the convention ballot, or to make any sort of credentials challenge. There are some upcoming states in which Gingrich might have a slim chance -- the May 22nd contests in Arkansas and Kentucky strike me as the ripest opportunities. But getting there requires Gingrich to achieve his stated goal of "breaking up the media narrative," and a second-place finish in Delaware won't cut it.
At any rate, that represents the one avenue for something resembling suspense tonight, so prepare your fainting couches.
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