CNN's GUT CHECK | for Wednesday, March 14, 2012 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
BREAKING: Santorum in Puerto Rico speaks out on the Romney campaign: "It’s pretty sad when all you have is to do math instead of trying to go out there and win it on substance and win it on what Americans want to hear about. We’re a long, long way from over. You know what I suspect if we keep winning state after state after state he ain’t gonna be the nominee." See Jim Acosta's full interview at 5:25 ET on "The Situation Room."
Today is Newt Gingrich’s Gut Check.
Four years ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry placed a phone call to Mike Huckabee in the name of Republican Party unity. The request was rebuffed. Huckabee stayed in the Republican presidential race against John McCain, only bowing out after McCain had locked up the nomination.
Will Perry make the call again? He is close with Gingrich and Gingrich owes him one. We made calls to Perry friends and allies and they told us: Unlikely. Perry’s campaign is still stinging from the Romney attacks of the campaign.
Gingrich’s decision to stay in the race – he said again late Tuesday night that he was heading to Tampa, Florida, in August – might actually help Romney by dividing the conservative vote. The map and the math shows that Gingrich might continue to help Romney blunt Santorum’s boom, which could turn up new bedfellows.
Maybe his wife, his family, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson or perhaps the eventual GOP nominee could persuade Gingrich? We talked to more than a dozen GOP heavyweights whom all were silent when asked: Who would Gingrich listen to?
One of the Bush brothers? Nope, several strategists said. After that, most of the establishment is backing Romney and Gingrich certainly is NOT going to listen to them.
As one Republican strategist said, “Newt is at a stage in his career that the number of people who can influence him to do something is clearly limited.”
Rick Tyler, an official with the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future, said his organization has no plans to abandon the former speaker. “We are 100% behind him as long as he wants to continue on,” Tyler said. “We have discussed this internally and we can’t think of a single reason for him to get out.”
Tyler said the discussion will continue Wednesday, but it is going to be centered on how to move forward, not planning to shut down. For Tyler, the goal is to continue to try to keep Romney from collecting the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination. Doing so would force the nomination fight to the Republican National Convention floor, which Tyler said is Gingrich’s best chance of winning the nomination. Oh, and he thinks that is Santorum’s best shot as well. Unless you believe otherwise.
Another strategist said that Gingrich is 68 years old, knows how to run a shoestring campaign and has been counted out before. “I don’t see any compelling case he would get out,” said the GOP official.
Many people said they think Gingrich truly believes he is the only candidate who can legitimately challenge President Obama in November.
“Frankly, I do not believe that a Massachusetts moderate, who created Romneycare as the forerunner of Obamneycare, is going to be in a position to win any debates this fall,” Gingrich said. “That's part of the reason I've insisted on staying in this race. We need someone who can go toe to toe with Barack Obama and debate him and win the debates decisively.”
So we head on to the next contest. Where is Gingrich campaigning on Wednesday? Illinois, of course, the next Tuesday primary.
In the end, this is what makes covering politics so rewarding. It's not about polls or numbers. It's about the soul searching of one American; a personal, political and emotional gut check.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics.com: U.S. must not repeat Afghanistan crises, Panetta says The United States must learn from a series of crises in Afghanistan so it does not repeat them, the U.S. defense secretary told American troops in the country Wednesday.
Leading Drudge: 'Suicide attack bid' on US Defence Secretary A vehicle got on to the runway and burst into flames as Mr Panetta's plane landed in Afghanistan this morning.
Leading HuffPo: Rick Santorum Primary Results: The Undead Presidential Candidate Down South Rick Santorum on Tuesday became the undead candidate for president.
Leading Politico: Mitt Romney muddles on Nothing is settled after the Alabama and Mississippi GOP primaries, but the two states injected a dose of clarity into the Republican battle Tuesday: Rick Santorum’s twin victories make him the unambiguous conservative alternative, Newt Gingrich has no obvious rationale for going forward and Mitt Romney must once again stage a crisis-and-recovery act to reassert his claim on a GOP primary that just keeps going.
Leading New York Times: Romney’s Challenge: Showing That Winning Doesn’t Always Matter Having fizzled once again in the South, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is increasingly arguing that outcomes are not the only things that matter. Their premise: Mr. Romney can — and will — win even while losing.
Which current governor identifies with both the New Progressive Party and the Republican Party?
The political bites of the day
- Brabender Brings Up Seamus–
JOHN BRABENDER, SANTORUM PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN SENIOR STRATEGIST, ON CNN’s “STARTING POINT”: “Look, Rick Santorum made it very loud and clear that he's not running to be the conservative alternative for Mitt Romney, he’s running to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama. And there is a strong belief that with Mitt Romney, we take things like health care off the table. I mean Mitt Romney is seen as a partner of building Obamacare. Bailouts, which are so important to the tea party people, we take off the table because Mitt Romney supported the Wall Street bailouts.”
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: “Romney says Rick Santorum is desperate. Listen to this.”
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sen. Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign and is trying in some way to boost his prospects and frankly misrepresenting the truth is not a good way of doing that.
O'BRIEN: “He was talking very specifically about an ad which said that the governor left Massachusetts $1 billion in debt. That he basically says all of this is indicative of desperation.”
BRABENDER: “Yes, first of all, that ad was not done by the campaign so I can't even speak to it. And second of all, you're talking about the guy whose super PAC has already spent $40 million brutally attacking the other candidates. And quite frankly, I’m not sure I’m going to listen to the value judgment of a guy who strapped his dog on the top of the roof of his car and went hurling down the highway.”
- Romney Surrogate: Look at McCain 2008 –
ROMNEY ADVISER SEN. JIM TALENT ON CNN: “Tell that to John McCain. I mean, he lost 19 states and he won the nomination. You know, when you have a contest with a number of people in it, you're not going to win anywhere. I don't know anybody who’s won the nomination when you’ve a contest, you’d have an open presidency, and you win everywhere. &hellip If you can't raise any money, it has a bearing on whether you're a good candidate and whether you can beat Barack Obama. It's all part of being a good candidate, having an organization, having a strong message, being energetic on the stump, raising money. And this is the national campaign that is moving towards the nomination. I mean, we're doing as well or better than McCain did four years ago. Like I said, we're doing better than four or five months ago I thought we would do in the South, at least as well as we expected. And so, now, we're going to move to other territory and continue getting delegates.”
- O’Brother, Thou Art on Capitol Hill –
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON, R-GEORGIA, AT THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE HEARING ON SUDAN: “I am well aware that the long line that began forming at 8 o’clock was not to see Johnny Isakson but to see George Clooney.”
SEN. JOHN KERRY: “Senator, don’t sell yourself short. I heard people out there say, ‘Have you seen Johnny Isakson?’”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
John King @JohnKingCNN
Morning take of top @MittRomney strategist: "we’ve lapsed into process". @rickSantorum "pounded us ... we left him alone. need 2 engage."
Dave Weigel @daveweigel
Apparently all TV embeds have been pulled from the Paul campaign as of this week
Luke Russert @LukeRussert
#Obama has 3 swing states in his final 4 and gives title to #UNC&hellip hmmmm playing politics or confidence in high seeds?
Jamie Dupree @jamiedupree
SANTORUM SWEEP: Sen Thad Cochran R-MS tells me "it was a surprise" that Santorum won, says surge was "invisible"
Vaughn Sterling @vplus
redcoats marching on White House! t.co/FCD9XE4g
Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño is a member of the New Progressive Party (PNP) and also identifies with the Republican Party of mainland USA. (In fact, Tuesday night a Republican consultant floated Fortuño’s name to Gut Check as a possible vice presidential pick for the GOP). Fortuño met with Rick Santorum on Wednesday but has already endorsed Mitt Romney in advance of the territory’s March 18 primary; Puerto Rico has 23 delegates. One interesting tidbit that might speak to Puerto Rico’s Catholic population: Rick Santorum used to attend church with Fortuño, something Santorum brought up in CNN’s debate in Florida in January. LINK
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