With a traditional path to the Republican nomination all but impossible, White House hopeful Newt Gingrich is cutting his schedule, shedding staff and eyeing a possible convention showdown, his campaign said.
“Our campaign is focused on winning a big choice convention this August in Tampa and is making necessary adjustments to leadership and personnel to execute our strategy,” Gingrich’s communications director Joe DeSantis told AFP.
But the former House speaker hardly looked like a candidate throwing in the towel Wednesday, delivering a speech to hundreds of students at Georgetown University in the US capital Washington, which holds its Republican primary on April 3 along with neighboring Maryland and the northern state of Wisconsin.
Gingrich has won just two of 34 nominating contests and trails a distant third in delegates, behind frontrunner Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
He has refused to bow out of the race despite calls by members of the party’s establishment to rally behind Romney as the best candidate to take on President Barack Obama in November.
Gingrich now appears to be banking everything on a possible brokered convention, which would occur in the unlikely event that Romney fails to secure the 1,144 delegates needed before the Republican National Convention.
Should Romney fall short, state delegates would decide on a candidate at the convention itself, opening the door for either Gingrich or Santorum — or any other candidate — to win the Republican nomination.
Federal records show Gingrich’s campaign struggling financially, with $1.55 million in debt and $1.54 million in cash-on-hand.
Gingrich was to lay off around a third of his full-time staff in the coming weeks, and campaign manager Michael Krull was forced out, Politico reported on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear which future campaign events Gingrich would cancel. The New York Times reported that Gingrich scrapped a trip to North Carolina, where polls show him doing well.
In a wide-ranging one-hour address at Georgetown, Gingrich focused on values and innovation, touching on religion and “big ideas” that he stresses on the campaign including an overhaul of federal bureaucracy to meld technological achievements and the free market to huge programs like social security.
But he hinted at trouble connecting with Americans over the issues that matter, and appeared to lay much of the blame on the system that he was such an integral part of in the 1990s, and the “denseness of Washington in resisting new ideas.”
“I haven’t done a very good job as a candidate, because it is so difficult to communicate big solutions in this country, and the entire structure of the system is so hostile to it,” he said.
“We are in deep trouble as a people. This transcends Republicans, it transcends Democrats,” he told the students.
“Your generation is inheriting a dysfunctional country which cannot communicate with itself and whose political leadership has no ideas big enough to get us back on track. And that’s why I decided to run.”
Gingrich did not take questions from reporters.
Romney is currently on track to win the nomination with 565 delegates, followed by Santorum with 256, Gingrich with 141 and Texas congressman Ron Paul with 66, according to the Real Clear Politics website.
Rick Tyler, who runs the Winning Our Future political action committee that supports Gingrich, said Gingrich aims to stay in the race “because he wants to give those who helped build the party an alternative and they do not feel Mitt Romney is their alternative.”
Tyler told CBS News that should no candidate win the nomination outright, the process would be resolved at the convention in Tampa, where delegates may not field enough support for Romney.
“It would be a race between Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. And in that situation I can imagine that a Newt Gingrich could emerge.”