Republican race faces possible shake-up after Gingrich withdrawal whispers

 

The race for the Republican nomination could be on the cusp of a shake-up with aides to Newt Gingrich whispering for the first time that he needs to win in two southern states voting next week or face leaving the field.

The prospects for the former House speaker in Alabama and Mississippi, which vote on Tuesday are uncertain. A new Alabama poll shows Rick Santorum with a slight lead over Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. It puts Mr Gingrich almost 10 points down in third position.

Mr Gingrich has an obstinate streak and much will depend on his donors. But his withdrawal, after next Tuesday or even before, would significantly boost Mr Santorum who would no longer have to share the conservative vote with him and might have a more realistic shot at closing the delegate gap with Mr Romney.

“Were Newt Gingrich to suspend his campaign now, and endorse Rick Santorum, he could provide that unity and, through such a great act of statesmanship, open a new chapter in his storied political career,” Richard A Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com said in a statement.

Survival for Mr Gingrich has meant relying on a southern strategy, itself born out of his convincing win in South Carolina in January. While he prevailed in Georgia, which he represented in Congress for years, he did worse than expected this week in other southern states like Tennessee.

The super-PAC for Santorum on Wednesday urged Mr Gingrich to withdraw and said yesterday it would spend “well over half a million” dollars in TV spots in Alabama and Mississippi. “On the heels of our call for Newt Gingrich to unite conservatives by exiting the race, now we are investing heavily in the next two primary states to ensure that happens with a Santorum victory,” Stuart Roy, an advisor to the PAC, said.

The Romney campaign took its six-out-of-10 ‘Super Tuesday’ record as the moment to nudge all of his rivals to get out of the way arguing it would take an “act of God” for them to catch up with his delegate numbers. Mr Santorum hit back quickly. “What won’t they resort to, to try to bully their way through this race?” he asked. “If the governor now thinks he’s now ordained by God to win, then let’s just have it out.”

But the burial of Mr Gingrich may not be what Mr Romney wants. Had the speaker gone earlier, it is arguable that Mr Santorum would have taken states he lost to Romney by tiny margins, like Ohio and Michigan.

A last-minute cancellation of campaign appearances yesterday in Kansas, which has caucus voting Friday, sparked speculation that the Gingrich campaign was already winding down. More likely, it was a sign that he accepts that he has to focus on Mississippi and Alabama to avoid calamity there next week.

Austin Barbour, a Mississippi native and a member of the Romney national finance team, was among those saying Mr Gingrich would not make the grade next week in states that a while ago favoured him. “Newt is popular in Mississippi, and had Mississippi come right after South Carolina, no question he would’ve won, but it didn’t,” he said. “Now I think it’s a race where Santorum is probably the favourite.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...