Newt Gingrich is the master of the nonvictory victory speech. He won on Super Tuesday even though he went 1 for 10. He won in Alabama and Mississippi even though he finished second in both states. All also-rans should take inspiration from him. He is the best advertisement for third place--where he sits, behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum--since Avis launched its "We try harder" campaign.
Gingrich is vowing to go on, which he does all the time, since he's usually losing. He can certainly keep running for President if he wants to. It's a free country, and folks do odd things all the time. Ever watch Swamp People? But Gingrich should realize that his romantic image of himself is never going to match electoral reality. He should get out to give Santorum a clean shot at Romney, to save himself further embarrassment--and to stick it to the press, which loves nothing more than having Gingrich to kick around.
Any discussion of Gingrich must begin with his undeniable accomplishments. He led his party out of the wilderness and briefly touched the promised land as Speaker of the House. He is incredibly creative and glib. If winning the Republican nomination depended only on routinely giving compelling answers in debates, Gingrich would be coasting to Tampa.
Alas, other qualities are necessary. He lost the speakership after exhausting his fellow Republicans with his unreliability and continual dramas. By some accounts, he was on the verge of a personal meltdown by the end, cheating on his wife at the same time President Clinton was embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal. Gingrich recovered nicely. He re-established himself as a commentator and conservative elder statesman while making a good living as a Beltway influencer. Then he ran for President.
Immediately, he was almost undone by his mouth. He couldn't simply dissent politely from Representative Paul Ryan's plan for Medicare but had to denounce it as "right-wing social engineering." His senior staff deserted him shortly afterward. After months as an asterisk, he surged, and the Romney campaign shelled him into submission in Iowa.
Gingrich responded with some of the most nakedly angry appearances by a major American politician in recent memory. They were sarcastic, bitchy, appalling--and entertaining as hell. He launched a determinedly bipolar campaign, by turns positive-negative-positive-negative, but always focused on Romney, Gingrich's white whale: "I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up."
Gingrich's ability to enact his personal revenge fantasy is limited by the fact that the geographic heart of his base is the Georgia--South Carolina border. Although he won those two neighboring states, once he moves a couple hundred miles in any direction, he's back in hostile territory. He finished third in Tennessee and Oklahoma. Alabama is right next to his home state, Georgia, and he still lost them.