Washington, DC — Former U.S. House speaker and one-time Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich dropped out of the race to be America’s next commander-in-chief on Wednesday.
Speaking in Arlington, Virginia just outside the U.S. capital city, Gingrich announced his departure but fell short of endorsing his previous opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney:
I am asked sometimes – is Mitt Romney conservative enough? And 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.
Gingrich helped re-write the book on conservative values nearly twenty years ago, a process that lead to a Republican takeover of the U.S. Congress and a shift that secured him the top position there. During the campaign, he enjoyed a few high-points, and even delivered a few good punches, and not just always to candidates. But such peaks and jabs were not enough to keep him on top, as a well-funded Romney team struck hard in a series of negative ads attacking Gingrich and his character.
Gingrich leaves his campaign with more than $4 million in debt, some of which will likely be picked up by mega-rich backers like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and publisher of the free right-wing Israeli daily “Yisrael Hayom,” donated millions of dollars to Gingrich’s campaign via a so-called Super PAC. It’s estimated that he indirectly gave $15 million to (unsuccessfully) push Gingrich into the White House. The link between the two explained a rather unusual and arguably unnecessary foreign policy comment made by Gingrich to a Jewish cable television channel, in which he referred to Palestinians as “an invented people.”
The move was viewed by many as a gross illustration of the influence Super PACs can have on a presidential candidate. Super PACs are a relatively new phenomenon in U.S. politics, courtesy a 2010 Supreme Court decision which allows “political action committees” (PACs) to donate unlimited amounts of money to causes, so long as they are not coordinating with a named candidate of party. This means that individuals, unions, and – most importantly by some measures – corporations, can provide endless amounts of funding for a political cycle. In the case of Gingrich, Super PACs indirectly supporting him were just not as effective (i.e. wealthy) as those supporting his rival, Mitt Romney.
Meanwhile, what should have been a good day for Romney was tarnished by a campaign hiccup when a senior member of the team abruptly announced his resignation the previous night. Richard Grenell was recently appointed to serve as Romney’s foreign policy spokesman. He is openly gay. Many “liberal” conservatives viewed his appointment as a shift in the Republican party’s position on social issues, like gay rights, and the future of social issues under a Romney presidency. But Romney already had their votes, so there was little gain there. Many “conservative” conservatives saw this as yet another sign that Romney is just too far from so-called traditional conservative values. In a statement issued upon his resignation on Tuesday, Grenell, who the Romney camp noted was exceptionally qualified for the post, said that attacks on his personal life and character made it difficult for him to do his job:
….[M]y ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.
Grenell’s departure is also ill-timed because Wednesday presented a unique opportunity for Romney to state his foreign policy positions, with U.S. President Barack Obama visiting troops in Afghanistan and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attending an economic and strategic dialogue meeting in China. Instead, other Romney advisors, like Dan Senor – former civilian spokesman for the U.S. military operation in Iraq – took to the airwaves in a bit of a scramble.
Senor, of course, is a very powerful figure. Aside from being a Fox News commentator, he is also married to Campbell Brown of CNN and NBC notoriety. His sister, Wendy Senor, is head of the Jerusalem office for AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel Washington-based lobbying group. Romney and Netanyahu do not really need anyone bringing them together; they do so just fine on their own. Indeed, their bond goes back a quarter of a century to the 16th floor of a consulting group’s office. But still, Senor’s credentials are very “pro-Israel” – he even studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem - and that will only help. Perhaps more and more appearances on television by Senor will convince Adelson to throw some “indirect” unlimited money to Romney, as well … of course, only after he is done paying-off Gingrich’s debt.