Gingrich acknowledges the inevitable: He won't be the nominee

Newt Gingrich didn't formally withdraw from the presidential race. But he's way behind in delegates, and he describes Mitt Romney as 'far and away the most likely' Republican nominee.

Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/AP
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at Marquette University, on March 29, in Milwaukee. Gingrich acknowledged Sunday that Mitt Romney is likely to be the GOP's presidential nominee.

And then there were three?

Not exactly, but it does seem as if Newt Gingrich is writing his own presidential campaign obit.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Gingrich described Mitt Romney as "far and away the most likely" GOP nominee.

"I hit him as hard as I could. He hit me as hard as he could. It turned out he had more things to hit with than I did. And, that's part of the business. He's done the fundraising side brilliantly," Gingrich said, adding that he’ll campaign “as hard for Romney as I would for myself.”

For now, he acknowledges, he has $4.5 million in campaign debt, and he’s “operating on a shoestring.” Two weeks ago, he laid off one-third of his campaign staff.

IN PICTURES: Newt, now and then

Except for South Carolina and his home state of Georgia, Gingrich has been unable to win any presidential primaries or caucuses. He kept saying he’d fight it out at least until the Texas primary May 29, and he may have survived a string of southern primaries earlier that month (although probably not as long as Rick Santorum stayed in the race).

But money is the mother’s milk of politics, as they say, and the handwriting had been on the wall going back at least two weeks.

That’s when his principal financial angel, billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, began considering a move to the Romney campaign.

“It appears as though he’s at the end of his line,” Adelson said of Gingrich at the time. “Because, I mean, mathematically, he can’t get anywhere near the numbers, and it’s unlikely to be a brokered convention.”

But like all politicians with major egos (is that redundant?) Gingrich has continued to find it difficult to say he’s going to drop out of the race.

As recently as yesterday, he was telling the Washington Post there was “nothing” that would make him quit his run for the presidency.

“The only way I’ll be the nominee is if Romney makes a major mistake and ends up with a number of his delegates saying they just can’t do that,” he said.

So far, that’s an unforeseeable outcome. Romney runs a very disciplined campaign, and he has mega-resources to keep at it until his nomination is confirmed in the number of delegates he’s won (which at this point is many more than Gingrich, Santorum, and Ron Paul combined). He’s already pivoted from running against the other three GOP hopefuls and begun taking on incumbent Barack Obama.

“It never occurred to me – and this is one of the lessons I’m contemplating for some future memoir – it never occurred to me the scale of the Romney fundraising capability,” Gingrich told the Washington Post. “I was fully prepared to be outspent 2-to-1, even 3-to-1. But when you’re up to 5- or 6-to-1, you’re being drowned. You’re not going to be able to match it.”

Gingrich has had a campaign full of ups and downs. Just weeks after entering the race last year, his campaign imploded. Months later, in the weeks before the Iowa caucuses, he surged. He came in behind Romney and Santorum in Iowa, but won South Carolina. He had several losses before winning his home state of Georgia. He had hoped to carry the momentum of that win to other contests in the South, so far unsuccessfully.

Despite Gingrich's acknowledgment of what appears to be his inevitable defeat, the former House speaker isn't ready to drop out. Gingrich says he wants to influence the party's platform, which is a statement of principles on the issues. He's interested in promoting increased domestic oil production and personal Social Security savings accounts.

Still, platforms play very little part in the post-conventions campaign when the incumbent and the challenger go at it head-to-head.

What then for Gingrich, once campaign 2012 is over?

“I suspect I'll go back to making speeches and writing books and actually having a pretty good time,” he says. And, he might have added, making lots of money as the Washington insider he’s been for decades.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

IN PICTURES: Newt, now and then

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