By MITCH WEISS
Newt Gingrich declined to discuss his struggling presidential campaign Tuesday and said he would decide his next steps after the latest primaries, refusing to acknowledge the Republican nominating contest is essentially over.
Gingrich said Mitt Romney was presumptuous to begin his head-to-head campaign against President Barack Obama while some states have yet to have their primaries. The former House speaker walked away from reporters when pressed about how long he would continue a debt-riddled campaign that has no plausible route to denying Romney the Republican nod.
For his part, Romney planned a primary night speech in New Hampshire, the site of his first victory in the race for the nomination. Aides said his remarks would focus on the general election campaign against Obama.
Gingrich has hung his comeback hopes on a strong showing in Delaware and has spent considerable time there in recent weeks. Under pressure for some time to drop out of the race, he has not won a presidential primary since finishing first in his former home state of Georgia on March 6.
One of his daughters, meanwhile, said the former House speaker will “reassess” his campaign after Tuesday’s results, potentially setting the stage for his exit from the Republican presidential race.
She hinted, as Gingrich has in recent days, that the race is fluid and that a dramatic shift could come at any time.
Despite trailing Romney in convention delegates 5-to-1, Gingrich has vowed to campaign until the party’s late-summer convention in Florida. He has more than $4.3 million in debt.
Bob Walker, a former congressman from Pennsylvania who served with Gingrich in the House and now chairs his presidential campaign, said he thought Gingrich could do well in Delaware but acknowledged that a poor showing would force the campaign to make a decision about going forward.
Gingrich was keeping a pair of scheduled appearances Tuesday in North Carolina, including his first election night party since February. But after his tour of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, he walked away when reporters asked him about his political fortunes.
Campaigning in the Wilmington area of Delaware on Monday, Gingrich said winning the state would put him in good position to continue his campaign. But if Romney were to win big in Delaware, “I think you would have to stop and take a deep breath,” he said.
Gingrich cautioned Romney against appearing cocky.
Romney has won 698 of the 1,144 delegates needed to become the nominee, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Gingrich has 137 delegates.
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Washington, Randall Chase in Dover, Del., and Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this report.