Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Adios Newt: What Gingrich's SuperPAC Should Buy Next
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
That's all, folks.
Newt Gingrich became the second-to-last casualty of the Republican primary on Wednesday, officially announcing that his campaign was kaput.
At a press conference in Arlington, Virginia, Gingrich thanked his biggest supporters: The 179,000 donors to his campaign; fellow former candidates Rick Perry and Herman Cain; Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who's spent millions propping up the Winning Our Future Super PAC.
"I also have to thank the people of South Carolina and apologize to them," Gingrich said, referencing his primary victory in the state. "We will have broken their tradition of always picking the nominee."
Gingrich delivered the sort of concession speech one might expect. It was unapologetic and grand; if he hadn't said it, you wouldn't have known he was quitting.
"Suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship," Gingrich said. "Callista and I are going to put down the roles of candidate and candidate spouse, and up the role of citizens."
The former speaker rattled off a list of things he would continue to work on, a campaign Greatest Hits that he assured the audience would still be priorities even if the White House wasn't one any longer. He reaffirmed his commitment to fighting for energy independence, religious liberty, personal health savings accounts, modernizing unemployment, brain research, regenerative medicine —and, of course, space.
"I will cheerfully take back up the issue of space," Gingrich said, smiling. "Callista reminded me 219 times, give or take three, that the moon colony was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign.
"My role providing material for Saturday Night Live was helpful," Gingrich joked, before taking a serious turn. "If we're going to be the leading country in the world, we have to be the leading country in space."
Toward the end of his speech, Gingrich pivoted toward the awkward reality of a general election in which he'll be rooting for his most bitter rival of the campaign, Mitt Romney.
"The question I get asked is, is Mitt Romney conservative enough," Gingrich said. "My answer is simple: Compared to Barack Obama? This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan. This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist President in American history."
Media misses Newt already
The former Speaker released a video on Tuesday thanking supporters and giving them advance notice of his intention to call it quits. It wasn't long before the eulogies started rolling across the internet.
Politico gathered their memorable Newt moments. GQ rounded up the farewells. Comedy Central's Indecision Forever wrote a book, Goodnight Moon Colony. The New Yorker, The Daily Beast, MSNBC, Jimmy Fallon — the list of Newt's jilted admirers goes on and on and on.
And that's the most interesting thing about the end of Newt: He will be missed.
This kind of thing didn't happen when Rick Santorum exited the race. "Things I'll miss" lists were in short supply when Rick Perry called it quits. Bachmann? Forget about it. Now having vague recollections of a man named "Hunter" or something like that being in the race, but perhaps that was just something in a dream.
The only other Republican candidate to get this sort of treatment has been Herman Cain. In many ways, he was the exact opposite of New Gingrich; but you could count on each candidate to be entertaining, or shocking, or brash, or funny, or human on a regular basis. It's just more fun with guys like this in the race.
Now we have to talk about Mitt Romney, and only Mitt Romney. Hilarious.
Given all the times Gingrich's campaign should have been dead in the water, the circumstances surrounding his departure are comparatively bland. This was a candidate whose staff abandoned him early last summer, while he was cruising the Mediterranean with his wife. This was a candidate who appeared to be out of money, not once, but several times over the past year. At one point "Gingrich campaign says it has money" was an actual headline. It was news that Newt wasn't broke.
This was a candidate who survived the resurfacing of loathsome adultery scandals from his past. Who never apologized for wanting to go to the moon, or suggesting schools should fire all their janitors and give the kids a mop. Who spent the last two months of his "campaign" visiting zoos, feeding pandas, and getting bit by a penguin.
You cannot make this stuff up. And that's what the media will miss. At least it was fun.
What about that Super PAC cash?
Two things remain to be seen: what role Newt plays in Mitt Romney's general election campaign, after the two were such bitter rivals during primary season; and what Winning Our Future, the pro-Gingrich Super PAC bankrolled by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, does with the almost $6 million it has left on hand.
Really, they can do just about anything, up to and including buying personal yachts to congratulate themselves on a campaign well done. Before that happens, may we humbly recommend the following:
Buy a zoo for Newt — If Matt Damon could do it in that movie, this is totally plausible.
Form a private company to compete with NASA; pioneer moon colony; save humanity from coming nuclear holocaust — Mitt said he would've fired an employee for suggesting a trip to the moon. Winning Our Future could give him the bird and do it anyway.
Start a janitorial summer camp for kids — The dream of having children clean up after themselves lives on.
Pay off Newt's campaign debt — He's got $4 million of it.
26 at the roulette table — I have a good feeling.