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Despite a curious 'concession' speech, Gingrich faces uphill battle

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is accompanied by his wife Callista (R) as he addresses supporters at his Florida primary night rally in Orlando, Florida January 31, 2012.


Newt Gingrich sure has a curious definition of "concession speech."

Not only did he omit congratulating Mitt Romney on his 14-percentage point romp in the Florida primary, the unyielding former House of Representatives Speaker spent his entire Tuesday night address measuring the White House drapes.

There was even a shout-out to Canadians and a promise of pipeline paradise.

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"My message to the people of Canada is don't cut a deal with the Chinese," Mr. Gingrich said, referring to the stalled construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas. "Help is on the way. By January, you're going to build the right pipeline to the right place."

Not to put a damper on the pro-pipeline party, but Mr. Gingrich's odds of actually making it to the Oval Office are sinking faster than the bids on a Tampa bungalow.

By Wednesday morning, Intrade, the online betting market, had Mr. Gingrich's probability of becoming the Republican presidential nominee at 4.2 per cent. His chances of becoming President were set at 1.2 per cent.

Markets are not infallible, or even reliable, and political stars and dogs can switch places on a dime. But Mr. Gingrich must cross a figurative and literal desert in February if he is to have any hope of fulfilling his presidential prognostications.

There may well be "46 states to go" – as Mr. Gingrich proclaimed in his Florida "concession" speech – but the next month is more likely to reinforce Mr. Romney's "inevitability" aura than revive the faint prospects of his principal rival.

On Saturday, Nevada Republicans will gather for the state's GOP caucuses. Mr. Romney, who swept the state in 2008, has visited regularly during this campaign. For weeks, he has been running ads – a positive one touting his candidacy and a negative one attacking Mr. Gingrich. Intrade gives Mr. Romney a 98.4 per chance of winning on Saturday.

The Gingrich campaign has run no ads and has no ground operation to speak of in Nevada. With Ron Paul and Rick Santorum each playing to their strengths in Nevada – where one-on-one contact with voters counts – Mr. Gingrich will be lucky to pick up more than a few of the state's 28 delegates.

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Next week's caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota do not augur well for Mr. Gingrich, either. Mr. Romney is overwhelmingly favoured to win both. And Mr. Gingrich may not even finish second as Mr. Santorum and Mr. Paul focus their efforts there.

Popular former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has been campaigning on Mr. Romney's behalf since he dropped out of the Republican race in August. The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was preparing to endorse Mr. Romney, something she immediately denied in a statement. But that may be a blessing in disguise for Mr. Romney.

The Feb. 28 GOP primaries in Arizona and Michigan are also expected to fall Mr. Romney's way – though they remain too far off to warrant any confidence on his part.

Still, Mr. Romney was born in Michigan. He won the state in 2008, even though he faced a serious challenge on the centre-right from John McCain.

In Arizona, Mr. Gingrich's softer stand on illegal immigration does not play well with the Republican base there. And with Mr. McCain now working on Mr. Romney's behalf, the GOP machine in Arizona is solidly behind the ex-Massachusetts governor.

All of this makes Mr. Gingrich's Tuesday night speech a curiosity for the Republican ages.

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"We are going to contest every place, and we are going to win, and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August," he vowed. "It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate."

He even invoked Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, saying "we're going to have people power defeat money power in the next six months."

After all, Mr. Gingrich said, he had "been studying what America needs to do since the fall of 1958."

You know, back when Keystone was only a pipe dream.

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About the Author

Columnist Konrad Yakabuski writes on politics, policy and business for The Globe and Mail’s Comment section and Report on Business. More

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