With Nevada Victory, Is Romney the Inevitable Nominee?
With his impressive victory in Saturday's Nevada caucus, pundits are suggesting that Mitt Romney has a clear path to the Republican nomination. Newt Gingrich's post-caucus speech, meanwhile, was viewed as lacking graciousness and "whiny," and as a sign that his campaign is effectively over.
Romney won with 48 percent of the vote, followed by Gingrich (23 percent), Ron Paul (18 percent) and Rick Santorum (11 percent). The victory came just four days after Romney won the Florida primary with 46 percent of the vote.
Gingrich called a news conference Saturday night to say that he is not leaving the race.
"What happens is every primary day or caucus day, the Romney headquarters in Boston sends out the rumor that they believe I will withdraw, which of course is their greatest fantasy," Gingrich complained. "I'm not going to withdraw. I'm actually pretty happy with where we are, and I think the contrast between Governor Romney and me is going to get wider and wider and clearer and clearer over the next few weeks."
Congressman Joe Heck (R-Nev.), a Romney supporter, had earlier that evening said that Gingrich should get out of the race, but there were no rumors or news reports that Gingrich had taken that advice.
"Tonight [Romney] will do reasonably well," Gingrich stated. "This is one of his best states. It is a very heavily Mormon state which he carried in 2008."
About one in four Nevada caucus voters were members of the Church of Jesus Christ-Latter day Saints, or Mormon Church, and 90 percent of them voted for Romney, according to CNN entrance polls. Romney also won the non-Mormon vote, however, by about 15 percentage points. He also carried 49 percent of "very conservative" voters, 50 percent of Tea Party supporters and 46 percent of white evangelicals.
Traditionally, candidates congratulate the victor after a caucus or primary. Paul and Santorum have followed that tradition, but Gingrich has not. Some have argued that Gingrich's lack of graciousness after a defeat is hurting his campaign.
"But whether he knows it or not, Gingrich is becoming a caricature of petulance: no concession in Nevada, no call to Romney, no awareness that his inability to raise money at levels of a political rival or to match a competing campaign organization is not necessarily unfair," Victor David Hanson wrote Sunday on the conservative blog National Review Online.
Hanson also said that Gingrich's speech Saturday will "hurt him more than anything yet in the campaign." He advised Gingrich to listen to the recording of the speech and, "he would quickly grasp that it was little more than a litany of excuses, whining, and accusations – characterized by stream-of-conscious confessionals and rambling repetitions."
Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin also said that Gingrich's speech, combined with Romney's victory, was a sign that his campaign is effectively over.
"Yesterday's blowout victory by Mitt Romney in the Nevada caucus followed by Newt Gingrich's bitter, angry press conference (sort of a combination of Howard Dean's scream and Richard Nixon's White House farewell speech) confirmed what we strongly suspected in Florida: Gingrich's presidential campaign is caput, whether he knows it or not."
Dick Armey, chairmen of Freedomworks, a Tea Party organization, also saw Romney as the inevitable nominee in a Sunday interview on CNN's "State of the Union."
"I feel bad for him," Armey said of Gingrich. "I think he's digressed into taking a second rate campaign and turning it into a first rate vendetta. And, I think he's put himself out of the game because he can't get over his obsession about his own hurt feelings about the campaign in Iowa."
Armey was House Majority Leader when Gingrich was Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1998. Though Armey supported Gingrich during the attempted coup against him in 1997, the two have not always worked well together.
Armey suggested that Romney will be the Republican nominee and said his focus will now be on electing a conservative House and Senate.
"We are left with a dilemma that we are not going to get a reliable, small government conservative, out of this nominating process. This is why we've focused our attention on the House and Senate," Armey said.
When asked if he would support Romney if he wins the nomination, Armey said, "We would rather have a Republican president that is not fully the guy that we adore wanting our affections than a Democrat president who despises us and covets the affections of our mortal enemies on public policy."
Regarding his path forward, Gingrich said that his campaign is planning on "a series of victories which, by the end of the Texas primary, will leave us about at parity with Gov. Romney."
Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, a Gingrich supporter, said on "Fox News Sunday" that the campaign is focused on winning delegates in Minnesota, Arizona and a number of Super Tuesday states.
One of the difficulties for the Gingrich campaign, though, is fundraising. The campaign is still $600,000 in debt, which is down from the $1.2 million it owed in October 2011, according to the Washington Post.
About $300,000 of the debt that has been paid off was money that the campaign owed to Gingrich himself, or to his company, Gingrich Productions. Among those expenses, the Gingrich campaign paid Gingrich $47,000 for a donor list and $67,000 to Gingrich Productions for website and email hosting.